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Brain & Nervous System Health Center

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What’s Behind ‘Cloverfield’ Illness?

Wave of Nausea Hits Moviegoers
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 24, 2008 -- Scan the news and blogs and not only do you see that Cloverfield had a record-breaking opening weekend, but there was an unforeseen side effect: nausea. And it didn't come from the popcorn, or the writing -- but the camerawork.

In Cloverfield, a giant monster attacks Manhattan. The problem -- at least for those prone to motion sickness -- is that it's all filmed through a very jerky handheld camera.

This had led to reports of nausea and vomiting in theaters across the country. One theater chain has even taken pre-emptive action. AMC Theaters has placed caution signs in hundreds of its theaters around the country warning about possible motion sickness, according to the Los Angeles Times.

"I saw it this weekend and was so sick to my stomach that I had to leave the theater," says Sara Butler, a WebMD programming manager. "I have a friend who's an EMT in New Jersey, and she was called to several theaters this weekend to deal with people who were sick."

While motion sickness is usually caused by plane, boat, or car movement, bumpy camerawork could definitely do it, too.

(Did Cloverfield make you queasy? What other movies have you seen that affected your senses this way? Talk about it on the Health Cafe board.)

What Causes Motion Sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages from the inner ear, the eyes, and other parts of the body.

While watching Cloverfield, viewers were sitting still in their seats, so their inner ear was telling their body they were motionless. But the bumpy camera movements -- and their eyes -- misled them into thinking they were moving around erratically.

These conflicting messages to the brain lead to symptoms of motion sickness, most notably nausea. Other symptoms include vomiting, headache, and sweating.

What Is the Treatment for Motion Sickness?

Obviously, the best treatment is to avoid situations that make you sick. But if that's not possible, there are a few things you can try. Also, if you're prone to motion sickness, remember that prevention is best because once symptoms start, relief is tough to find until motion stops.

  • If you love cruising but it doesn't love you, choose a center cabin where there is less movement.
  • On a boat or ship, stay on the deck and look at the horizon.
  • In an airplane, sit near the wings.
  • In a car, sit in the front seat and look through the window. Don't read or focus on an object inside the car.
  • Drive, don't ride. Drivers are less prone to motion sickness.

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