Motion sickness (travel sickness) is common, especially in children. Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the motion-sensing parts of the body -the inner ears, eyes and nerves in the extremities. The symptoms of motion sickness are nausea, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, and a sense of feeling unwell. It’s not clear why motion sickness affects some children more than others. While the problem doesn’t seem to affect most infants and toddlers, children ages 2 to 12 are particularly susceptible. Fortunately, many children grow out of having motion sickness. Symptoms can develop in cars, trains, planes and boats, and on fairground rides, etc.
Symptoms typically go when the journey is over, but not always. In some kids they last a few hours, or even days, after the journey ends. Some general tips to reduce motion sickness in kids include:
- Carefully plan pre-trip meals. Don’t give your child spicy or greasy foods or a large meal immediately before or during car travel. If your travel time will be short, skip food entirely. If the trip will be long or your child needs to eat, give him or her a small, bland snack — such as dry crackers and a small drink — before it’s time to go.
- Ensure ventilation either from open window or air conditioning – avoid overheating
- Do not sit your child facing backwards from your direction of travel.
- Reduce sensory inputs. Encourage your child to look at things outside the car — rather than focusing on books, games or movies. If your child naps, traveling during nap time also might help.
- Avoid unnecessary head movements by using pillows or a headrest
- If travelling by car, seat child near the front of the vehicle, that is, middle rather than third row in a larger vehicle
- If flying, sit over the plane wing – the ride tends to be less bumpy
- Have the child recline as much as possible
- Bright sun and glare can make the nausea worse. Try covering the windows
- Make frequent stops. Some children can only drive for an hour or two before starting to feel sick – take a break before they hit that point!
There are several medicines available which can reduce, or prevent, symptoms of motion sickness in children. Please consult your child’s pediatrician or pharmacist.