What is the role of sympathomimetics in the management of motion sickness?

Updated: Oct 22, 2018
  • Author: Andrew Brainard, MD, MPH; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Sympathomimetics, while have shown some effectiveness in preventing and treating motion sickness, are most commonly used to counteract the sedation of other motion sickness treatments. They have not been shown to be superior to other medications. Due to concerns regarding their addictive potential, they are not as often prescribed.


While having been shown to have some efficacy in preventing motion sickness, these are a controlled substance with a high abuse potential, and therefore should be prescribed with caution. [29]


Caffeine has been shown to be of benefit in treating motion sickness only when combined with other pharmacological treatments such as promethazine. [30]

Other Medications

Antiemetics are taken to relieve nausea, but have not been shown to prevent motion sickness.

Ondansetron  is the most often recommended antiemetic but has been shown to be a poor treatment choice for motion sickness. [31, 32]

Benzodiazepines  such as diazepam have been shown to prevent motion sickness but not as well as other options. [33] This fact, along with its sedation properties, make it a poor choice. However, for resistant and severe cases, especially for patients with incapacitating motion sickness, a benzodiazepine, if used safely, may be the most humane option.

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