Whether you are planning the perfect summer trip to the beach or a getaway to visit grandparents for the holidays, traveling offers the opportunity for adventurous and exciting times. However, nothing can ruin your family vacation faster than motion sickness. Although motion sickness most commonly affects adults, children between the ages of 5 and 12 also have a high risk of experiencing motion sickness when travelling by car, airplane or boat.
What is Motion Sickness?
Motion sickness usually occurs when the inner ear, eyes and other areas of the body detect motion and send unexpected or conflicting messages to the brain. For example, when your child sits in the back seat of a moving car, reading a book, his inner ears and skin receptors detect the motion of travel, but his eyes see only the stationary pages of the book. This leads to a conflict between the senses resulting in motion sickness.
An interaction of the following parts of the nervous system maintain your child’s sense of balance and the way he or she detects movement:
- The liquid-filled semicircular canals of the inner ears allow children to sense movement and the directions of the motion (forward-backward, side-to-side and up-and-down motions).
- The eyes reveal what they see while they are moving in certain directions.
- The skin receptors tell your brain which parts of the body are touching the ground.
- The brain and spinal cord process all the bits of information from the other systems in an attempt to produce a concise message about your child’s activities at a given moment.
When the brain receives signals that conflict or do not match, symptoms of motion sickness occur. The most common signs and symptoms of motion sickness include:
- Pale skin
- Increased salivation
If your child has experienced motion sickness in the past, consult with your family pediatrician to discuss your child’s history of motion sickness and how best to prevent its occurrence on upcoming trips.
Appropriate treatments for motion sickness vary by individual. Because of this, parents should ask their pediatric physician which medications and dosages would work best for their particular child. However, parents can often avoid using medication altogether by following a few simple guidelines before and during travel.
Once they start, the symptoms are difficult to stop. Take steps to prevent episodes of motion sickness when preparing to travel with your child. Consider the following preventive measures when planning a trip:
- Make sure he gets enough quality sleep before leaving.
- Feed him light, healthy foods prior to leaving; rich foods stay in the stomach longer and may contribute to nausea.
- Make sure your child’s car seat faces forward, and that he sits high enough to look out the windows.
- Fresh air helps prevent feelings of motion sickness, so maintain proper ventilation by rolling down windows if weather allows.
- Bring toys to occupy your child, but avoid letting him read, color, or play video games. These activities can cause the conflicting signals that trigger motion sickness.
- You can help prevent motion sickness by driving smoothly, with no abrupt starts or stops, and by gently turning corners.
- Make frequent rest stops along the way.
- Place a small wastebasket or some other type of washable container in the back seat, in case your child vomits.
- Pack bottled water along with pretzels or saltine crackers as these items tend to relieve mild motion sickness symptoms.
These guidelines provide the most effective ways to prevent motion sickness without using medications, but your child may become sick anyway. Children typically stop feeling sick after the vehicle stops. If the child continues to feel sick, he may have another, more serious, illness. Your local pediatric clinic can provide additional information regarding motion sickness prevention and treatment options available.
About the Author
Samantha Gluck is a writer who specializes in various topics, including pediatric healthcare, OB/GYN healthcare, business and much more.