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A new systematic review from Cochrane ENT at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences says antihistamines are likely to reduce the risk of developing motion sickness (travel sickness) in susceptible adults under naturally occurring conditions of movement, but they may be more likely to cause drowsiness than placebo.

Sick woman holding head in pain with a blurry background.

Motion sickness, also commonly known as sea sickness or car sickness, is a set of symptoms - usually nausea and vomiting. These symptoms are caused by passive body movement - where your body is moving without you consciously making it move - in response to actual motion (for example, driving in a car or being in a boat), or the illusion of motion when exposed to virtual movement (for example, virtual reality simulations) and moving visual environments (such as looking out of the window of a moving train). Antihistamines are a type of drug that have commonly been given to people to either treat or prevent motion sickness.

In this study, researchers at Cochrane ENT wanted to find out if these drugs actually work for this purpose and identified the following key messages.

  • Antihistamines are likely to reduce the risk of developing motion sickness in susceptible adults under naturally occurring conditions of movement.
  • They may be more likely to cause sedation (drowsiness) than placebo (dummy treatment).
  • There is very little evidence for their use in children.
  • There is no evidence on the use of antihistamines to treat motion sickness symptoms that have already started.

Read the full summary on the Cochrane website. 

Read a short blog by GP Dr Robert Walton who looks at the evidence from Cochrane ENT and at things you might want to weigh up when making a choice about treatments to prevent it.

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