Diagnosis of Motion Sickness

In most cases, motion sickness is diagnosed when symptoms of the condition (e.g., nausea, vomiting, dizziness [vertigo]) develop while traveling or participating in an activity that produces movement, such as swinging, or the perception of movement, such as watching a movie with a lot of fast action.

Medical conditions, including ear infections (e.g., otitis media), allergies, and head injuries, can disrupt balance and cause symptoms similar to motion sickness. If your child has been ill or injured recently and develops symptoms of motion sickness, his or her pediatrician may take a patient history and perform a physical examination and diagnostic tests to rule out a medical cause for symptoms.

Inform the physician about all medications, including over-the-counter and prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and herbal remedies. Some medications can cause symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, that are similar to motion sickness. During a physical exam, the doctor examines the ears, nose, and throat; performs hearing and vision tests; and evaluates balance and nerve function.

If a person experiences symptoms of motion sickness while not involved in a moving activity, develops additional symptoms (e.g., blurred vision, hearing loss, inability to speak clearly, difficulty walking), or sustains a head injury, a neurological examination and other diagnostic tests (e.g., blood tests, urine tests, imaging tests) may be performed.

Imaging tests, such as x-rays, CT (computed tomography) scan, and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, produce images of the skull, brain, spinal cord, and related structures (e.g., nerves, blood vessels) and can be used to rule out other conditions, such as tumor, inflammation (swelling), infection, or bleeding.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 25 Sep 2015