Ahhh…holiday time! With Christmas just around the corner, many families will be traveling, whether by car, by plane or perhaps by boat, to Grandma’s house to spend time with family and friends.  Picture this…you have gotten everyone safely buckled in those car seats and you are on the road when you hear, “My stomach’s not feeling good.”  If you are like me, my stomach immediately starts “not feeling good” either as I envision the thought of literally having to hose the vomit out of the car seat (for all of those parents out there, I am sure you agree this is one of the most unpleasant of tasks).  And what can we blame many cases of the “car vomit blues” on? Motion sickness.

“It is when the brain receives these mixed signals that the symptoms of motion sickness kicks in.”

Motion sickness is typically caused when the brain receives conflicting messages from the motion sensing parts of the body which include the inner ear, the eyes and the joints.  Two quick examples: if you are sitting in a movie theater and watching a rapid motion car chase sequence, then your eyes sense motion but your inner ear and joints are telling your brain that you are stationary.  When riding in a car, if a child cannot see out of the window or if they are focused on a book, then the inner ear senses the motion of the car but the eyes and joints do not.  It is when the brain receives these mixed signals that the symptoms of motion sickness kicks in.  These symptoms include nausea, lack of appetite, cold sweats, headache, and eventually, the dreaded vomiting.

While motion sickness can occur in the car, on a boat, or in a plane, children most commonly experience motion sickness while riding in the car.  So here are a few tips for prevention:

  • If your child is over 2 years of age, have them ride in a forward facing car seat that is placed in the middle of the backseat.  This allows them an unobstructed view out of the front window which allows the messages from the eyes and the inner ear to be on the same page.
  • Prior to longer trips in the car, give kids a small snack such as crackers or a granola bar before heading out on the road. Try to avoid greasy food or other foods that can be heavy on the stomach.
  • Children who tend to get carsick should avoid playing video games or reading books while riding in the car.  If they are focused on a stationary object (like a book) while your inner ear senses you moving in the car, that’s when the motion signal wires to the brain get crossed leading to motion sickness.
  • Engage and distract children by signing songs or playing “Eye Spy” type of games.
  • There are products called motion sickness wrist bands which use pressure points in the wrist to reduce motion sickness symptoms.
  • Finally, some children may benefit from medications such as Dramamine or Benadryl, which are antihistamines.  These medications can have side effects most commonly resulting in drowsiness, so make sure and discuss these medications as well as their dosing with your pediatrician before use.

Hopefully, these tips will help to keep your travels as holly and jolly as possible! Now- to write an article on the next biggest travel nightmare of parents - the never ending “are we there yet?” syndrome!