Motion sickness normally begins with a vague sensation of a sore stomach, nausea, lack of appetite, cold sweat, and tiredness. It may even progress to vomiting. A child may not be able to explain their queasiness, but may show signs of paleness, anxiety, restlessness, yawning, irritability, and may begin to cry.
It’s not really about being carsick. It’s the capacity of the brain to comprehend communication based on what it feels. The joints, eyes, and ears transmit similar signals to the brain. Most parts of your body tell the brain while you are riding in a car that you are moving forward. If the child is seated too low and cannot see out of the window, the child’s brain gets confusing messages. The eyes communicate stillness, but the part of the ears controlling motion and balance communicate motion. As a result, the brain receives an overload due to the sensory mismatch, causing nausea.
Effective Methods of Managing Travel Sickness in Children
Motion sickness doesn’t seem to affect most toddlers and infants. Children aged between two and twelve are most susceptible. There are several ways to curb travel sickness that do not require medication. In worst-case scenarios, medicines may be necessary. However, they come with a set of side effects like dry nose and mouth, drowsiness, or blurred vision. It is best to try natural, effective methods, such as:
- Avoid Very Long Journeys
Long journeys tend to be exhausting, even for adults. Make several stops along the way and as soon as you notice your child displaying symptoms.
- Plan Pre-Trip Meals Carefully
Avoid having your child travel on an empty stomach or eating large meals before travel. If the trip will be long, provide light, bland snacks before and during the journey, such as dry crackers, carrot sticks, or other light snacks, and a small cup of a beverage of choice.
- Provide Sufficient Air Circulation
Opening the windows or the sunroof to provide sufficient air circulation may help with car sickness.
- Reduce Sensory Input
If your child is small and unable to see outside through the window, use approved child safety seats to elevate them. Sitting higher and looking out the window helps alleviate the sensory mismatch in the brain caused during travel. It also helps to have them face the same travel direction to align with the message the eyes send to the brain. Encourage your child to avoid screens and books when in motion. Traveling when they are asleep might also help. However, if your child is younger than two years, retain the rear-facing car seats until they attain the highest weight indicated by the car seat manufacturer.
- Give Ginger
Research indicates that ginger is an effective motion sickness treatment. It efficiently decreases circulatory vection-induced nausea, tachygastric activities, and vasopressin releases, thus slowing down the stomach muscle wall movement. It may, therefore, be a novel agent in motion sickness treatment and prevention.
- Offer Distractions
Offer your child distractions like listening to sing-along songs or having engaging conversations with them. With older children, chewing gum provides a good distraction.
Some scents may be effective in acting as anti-nausea agents such as lavender or mint. You may provide the scent by placing an essential scented oil in the car as you travel and occasionally rubbing your hands with it.
There are OTC (over-the-counter) and prescription medications that can treat travel sickness. For adults and children above two years, there are medications like Dramamine. Another effective OTC drug is Benadryl, whose dosages are weight-based. Both drugs perform better if used approximately one hour before travel. Carefully read the medication label to assess the right dosage and brace for potential adverse effects, including drowsiness. Antihistamines that don’t cause drowsiness don’t seem to combat motion sickness effectively.
Excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration, so you want to avoid it at all costs. When nausea is severe, your Pediatrician may prescribe Ondansetron.
If none of the above methods work for you and your child, seek medical advice from your Pediatrician.