Motion Sickness Tips That Are Easy to Keep Down

Motion Sickness Tips that are Easy to Keep Down

Prior to holiday trips by car, plane, train or boat, I find many parents traveling to my office with questions about motion sickness.  Well I don’t want any parent or child getting sick to their stomach waiting for answers to these questions, so let me provide some information on this sometimes nauseating topic.

Motion sickness is usually the result of a conflict between the eyes and the ears.  The inner ears will detect that a car is moving, while the eyes fixed on a stationary object in the car do not – so the brain is unable to get these two signals together, eventually surrendering to dizziness, nausea, and eventually the vomiting we call motion sickness.

The good news is that the best defense against this problem is a good offense.  Here are some suggestions to prevent motion sickness from occurring:

  • Make sure your child sits forward and is positioned properly in their car or booster seat to see outside, and ask them to focus on distant objects rather than close scenery. 
  • Do not have your child try to read or play video games in the car, but instead use books on tape or music so that your child can sing or listen rather than use their eyes.
  • Keep a window slightly open and avoid strong-smelling foods or tobacco smoke exposure, which can make your child more nauseous.
  • Try to keep something in your child’s stomach but not too much; over or under-feeding can lead to motion sickness. 
  • Make frequent stops for your child to exercise, eat a snack and move around.

If these tips don’t work, there are over-the-counter medications that may help, but these must be given prior to embarking on a trip, and may make your child sleepier than they or you would like them to be. 

Of course, if you child says “Stop the car, I’m going to be sick!” I would do just that, rather than see what comes up next.  Don’t get angry at your child if they do experience motion sickness, since they have no control over this and cannot help what is happening.

Hopefully tips like this will stay down with you and your child when it comes to preventing them from experiencing motion sickness. 

Lewis First, M.D., is chief of Pediatrics at Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. You can also catch "First with Kids" weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5, or visit the First with Kids video archives at http://www.FletcherAllen.org/firstwithkids