Does car sickness affect your child?

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If you’re a driving fanatic, being on the open road during the holidays should be something to look forward to. If you decide to make it a family holiday, that can bring about a number of challenges when you have children on board…

One such thing to overcome is motion sickness, especially if they are sitting in the back! It’s a common problem, over 80% of the population will suffer with motion sickness at some point during their lifetime. In children, the severity of their symptoms tends to increase up to the age of 15. They may include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and disorientation.

Motion sickness (in this case, car sickness) is caused by the disparity between what you can see and what your ears (used for balance) can sense while travelling inside a vehicle. If there is a conflict between the information the brain receives from your visual system and that received from your vestibular system (responsible for sensing motion), it cannot process your current situation, resulting in feelings of nausea and sickness.

This can be clearly illustrated in the example of car sickness, as your eyes (visual system) tell your brain you are travelling at some speed and your ears (vestibular system) tell the brain that you are sitting still. The confusion that results from this is what causes car sickness.


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Keep calm…and stay still

It’s not easy to encourage children to stay still, especially when they are already bored from a long journey, but keeping still also reduces the amount of movement the brain needs to process and prevents the symptoms from worsening. In this instance, a pillow or headrest can be a good way of reducing the amount of movement detected by the vestibular system.


Focus on the outside

Open car windows to allow in fresh air. Air conditioning may cool everyone down but fresh air is best for treating the symptoms of car sickness.

Likewise, looking out of the window at a stable object, such as the horizon, may help as it tricks the eyes into thinking you are stationary. Naturally, you want to keep the kids entertained but reading a book or playing a game can actually make symptoms worse.

Try to focus children’s thoughts on looking out of the window or distract them with music or stories to listen to during the journey.


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Healthy snacks

Ensure that children eat light, healthy snacks when travelling if they are prone to car sickness. Eating food that is heavy or greasy is likely to exacerbate symptoms and increase nausea.

An interesting read is a blog post by which looks at the medicinal qualities of certain ingredients that can be used in child friendly car snacks to treat different moods expressed by children on long car journeys. One of the sections is on child friendly car snacks to treat car sickness.

Taking a break to use the toilet or get a bite to eat is also a good way to break up the journey and relieve the symptoms for a while.


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Finally, there are a number of medications that can be taken by children although it is always best to seek a medical practitioner’s advice. According to examples of medication that may be used to treat car sickness in children include Dramamine and Benadryl.

Alternatively, acupressure or travel bands are readily available from chemists and work by placing pressing on an acupressure point on the wrist. It is thought that pressure to this region helps alleviate nausea and vomiting, although this method has mixed results and does not work for everyone.

Another natural method of preventing car sickness is that of consuming ginger. It is thought that ginger works by slowing down muscle movements in the stomach, thereby reducing feelings of nausea.

Like acupressure, this method is free from drugs and should not cause any unpleasant side effects but it is still important to seek advice from a doctor about how much to give to your child. As with any medical treatment, much depends on the individual’s age and any pre-existing medical conditions.

For further information about treating car sickness, see medical websites such as the  and always seek advice from your doctor before administering medication.


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