Motion Sickness / Car Sickness

Ask The Doctor:
Motion Sickness / Car Sickness...

"Our family's holiday tradition includes a lengthy trek to grandma and grandpa's, and inevitably one of our three queasy kids gets sick in our minivan on the way. Is there anything we can do this year to prevent that?"

Car sickness occurs in about 25% of children, mostly between 2-12 years of age.  Like other types of motion sickness, it occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the motion-sensing parts of the body, namely the inner ear, eyes, and sensors in the joints of the arms and legs.  The most common situation is the young child who sits low and cannot see out very well.  The inner ear will sense the motion but their eyes and joints won't.  This can result in the child developing a cold sweat, nausea, dizziness, loss of appetite, or vomiting.  There are several things you may want to try to help decrease their car sickness.  Try to have your child look out the front window, not the side one.  Older children may be able to sit in the front seat.  Have them focus on distant objects, this is better than watching objects whisk by the side windows.  Avoid them looking at books or games.  Keep the car well ventilated by cracking a window.  Offer distractions by talking, listening to music or singing songs.  Have your child eat light before the trip by avoiding greasy foods or large meals just before you leave.  Wrist bands that provide acupressure (like Sea-Bands) can be effective in children.  Before the trip put the band on the child with the pressure button over the center of the wrist, about ½ inch above the inner wrist crease.  You can try over the counter Dramamine (50mg chewable tablets) given 1 hour before the trip.  The usual dose is ½ tab for kids 3-6 years, 1 tab for kids 6-12 years, and 2 tabs for those over 12.  If your child still naps, then traveling at naptime may help if they sleep during the ride.  Always keep a large ziplock plastic bag handy for vomiting….just in case nothing works.  If your child's motion sickness persists then a visit to your pediatrician for further suggestions is in order.