Approximately 20% of people suffer from motion sickness. Also known as car sickness or sea sickness, motion sickness can catch parents off guard but is often preventable and treatable with just a little knowledge and planning ahead.
As someone who has suffered from motion sickness for my entire life, I know a thing or two about motion sickness. Seriously, just ask my mom about the time(s) I puked curdled milk all over her in the car when I was an infant – all. my. life.
I've had to learn tips and tricks for dealing with it out of desperation (and lots of nausea).
You see, my parents loved taking road trips when I was a kid, and I hated them because I spent the majority of the time feeling miserable.
So I learned (through tons of trial and error) some tried and true tricks to help prevent – and deal with – motion sickness.
When my oldest child started suffering from motion sickness, I was armed and ready to teach him how to overcome that horrible experience!
Here is a complete guide to knowing everything a parent needs to know about motion sickness from signs and symptoms to effective ways to prevent and treat it!
What is motion sickness?
Car sickness and seasickness are types of motion sickness.
Simply put, motion sickness is an imbalance between what you see and what you feel.
In more detail, motion sickness is a sick feeling triggered by movement that occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the inner ears, eyes, and nerves in the joints and muscles.
It occurs in a car, bus, train, plane, or boat and can happen on amusement rides or virtual reality experiences. Seeing the movement of others or things can trigger it (think 3D video games).
Motion sickness is not life-threatening. However, it can make traveling extremely unpleasant (trust me, I know first hand!).
Triggers of Motion Sickness for Kids
Motion sickness triggers include:
- Being in the back seat of a car unable to see the horizon (where there is also more side-to-side movement)
- Reading in the car
- Not getting enough air in the car
- Riding in a vehicle (car, train, bus, etc) backwards
- Focusing on objects that are close while passing them
- Playing on a tablet while in motion (reading is the worst for motion sickness so use stick to videos if you need to use a digital device)
- Eating a large, heavy meal before traveling
Signs and Symptoms of car sickness
Symptoms can strike without warning and can get worse very quickly.
Mild symptoms are categorized as:
- mild unease
Other common signs are:
- a general feeling of discomfort
- not feeling well (malaise)
Severe symptoms include:
- pale skin
- short breath
Once the motion stops, the motion sickness goes away fairly quickly.
What Are Risk Factors for Motion Sickness?
While the problem doesn't seem to affect most infants and toddlers (clearly I was the exception), children ages 2 to 12 are particularly susceptible.
Also, you might notice that motion sickness tends to run in families. That's because there is a genetic component that makes some people more susceptible.
Motion sickness is also common in older people, pregnant women, and people who have migraines.
Ways to Prevent Motion Sickness for Kids
If you know you get motion sickness when traveling, plan ahead. These steps can prevent it or relieve the symptoms:
- Choose the right seat – this is key. Here are the best places to sit:
- Car = front passenger seat
- Boat = choose the midpoint on a boat
- Plane = sit over the wing on a plane – this is the most calm area
- Train = face forward on a train and sit near a window. These seats have fewer bumps and allow you to see the horizon.
- Cruise Ship = book a lower level cabin near the center of a ship as they generally experience less motion than passengers in higher or outer cabins.
- Do not sit facing backward from your direction of travel.
- Look at the distant scenery or horizon.
- Get plenty of air. Use the air conditioner or roll down the window in a car. Direct the vent toward you on a plane. Sit near a window when you’re on a covered boat.
- Avoid eating heavy meals before or during travel. Eat light, healthy, non-greasy, non-spicy meals instead.
- Drink lots of water. Avoid alcohol.
- Avoid smells that make you sick (if you can). This includes cigarette smoke.
- Avoid things you can’t change. For example, don’t ride on a speed boat. Waves and bumps can make you sick. If you can’t avoid it, take medicine in advance.
- Chewing gum seems to reduce the adverse effects of the conflict between vision and balance.
- Do not watch or talk to another traveler who is having motion sickness.
- Lie down, keep eyes closed and nap (this is the most effective for me)
- Take motion sickness medicine one to two hours before traveling.
- When in doubt, talk to your doctor about different therapies. This might include pressure bands prescription medicine options.
What are Home Remedies to Cure Motion Sickness?
There are many natural treatment options that are very effective for relieving car sickness in kids!
- Ginger has been found to reduce motion sickness. Your child can drink ginger tea or suck on ginger candies. There is some debate over whether it is the chewing or the ginger that does the trick.
- Peppermint tea – drink slowly!
- Cool air blowing on the face – I have literally had my window fully down when it's under 20 degrees and everyone else has the heat blasting on them. The good news…I felt great!
- Aromatherapy: Scents such as mint or lavender may be effective as anti-nausea medicines.
- Acupressure: Sea-Bands and other brands of acupressure wrist bands are inexpensive and low-risk treatments for motion sickness. Some people find noticable relief with acupressure, others don't find they help much (honestly, they don't help me). However, because it's so cheap, it's totally worth trying for you and your kids.
- As soon as your child starts to feel sick, have him close his eyes, or find a spot far in the distance to focus on, rather than looking at things that are close by.
- Deep breathing can bring fast relief to motion sickness.
- Singing or humming is a great way to get your child to breathe deeply. Try singing a song with your child. At the very least it will take her mind off the nausea.
- If the motion sickness persists, have your child lie down and try putting a cool cloth over his head while encouraging him to go to sleep.
Over the Counter Treatments for Motion Sickness
Try ginger candies.
- Cocculus indicus – Indian cockle – comes in pellet form that you dissolve under your tongue. It's safe for all ages.
- Dramamine, also known as Dimenhydrinate, is available over-the-counter for adults and children over age 2. The dose is 1–1.5 mg/kg per dose, or read the package label.
- Benadryl, also known as Diphenhydramine, can also be effective for motion sickness. Here is a weight-based dosing chart.
Prescription Treatments for Motion Sickness
- Zofran is a prescription medication for severe nausea. Talk to your pediatrician about whether Zofran might be right for your child.
- Scopolamine patches are worn behind the ear, However, they can cause drowsiness
Be sure to talk to your doctor about these options before giving them to your child.
Essential Oils for Car Sickness:
- Peppermint: Got an upset tummy? Peppermint is known for easing feelings of nausea, making it perfect for anyone who tends to get motion sickness when they are in a car for too long.
- Ginger Root: You’ve probably heard of ginger snap cookies and ginger sodas to help a stomach on the edge, right? Well, the same concept applies to Ginger Essential Oil; it has shown to help people when experiencing nausea. Inhaling it deeply is such a quick and easy way to settle the stomach down and get some fast relief!
- Cardamom: Cardamom is a spice in the same family as ginger, with its own unique properties and scent. This essential oil is a great go-to for helping to relieve nausea, abdominal cramping, and gas. That makes it perfect for long car rides that can cause discomfort on long road trips.
- Fennel is a digestive aid and a constipation reliever. Fennel is able to relax the digestive tract, which prevents and aids nausea. Using fennel essential oil could have the same effect. Fennel oil can be diluted in a carrier oil and applied to pressure points on your body or diffused. There’s little risk to using fennel oil several times per day.
- Spearmint Oil – like peppermint and ginger oils, spearmint essential oil can be applied to pressure points, rubbed gently over the stomach and intestinal area, or diffused through the air to bring relief for nausea. The refreshing scent of spearmint, mixed with the menthol component of its oil, can make you feel more alert and able to breathe despite your nausea.
- Lavender oil – Using lavender oil topically or in a diffuser can help your mind decompress as you get ready for bed. This same property can also make lavender effective in fighting nausea.
Pro Tip: Use a gentle carrier oil, like jojoba oil or coconut oil, to mix with more potent oils before applying to your skin. This will help you avoid burning or irritating your skin’s surface when you use essential oils topically. Three to five drops of essential oil in an ounce of carrier oil is the usual recipe.
Does motion sickness go away?
How long can motion sickness symptoms last?
Can kids take motion sickness medicine?
For kids‘ motion sickness relief, the most doctor- and pharmacist-recommended over-the-counter remedy is Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) for kids. It's approved for kids ages two and older and prevents symptoms of motion sickness, including nausea, vomiting and dizziness, for up to eight hours.
If you're planning a long car trip, ask your child's doctor about an over-the-counter medication to prevent car sickness. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) is approved for kids 2 and older. The antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl), approved for kids 6 and older, may also prevent symptoms.
Living with Motion Sickness
Teach your child to recognize the signs of motion sickness and encourage her to tell you as soon as they start. Toddlers as young as 2 or 3 will tell you when they feel sick (and you can start to recognize the symptoms before they are old enough to talk). It helps to talk about it ahead of time and encourage your children to tell you as soon as they feel sick.
And…always have a barf bag ready!
The Best Recommended Products to Help Treat Motion Sickness in Kids!