How to prevent and manage motion sickness in children

Whether it is a Sunday drive or cross-country road trip there is nothing like a sick child in the back of a car to ruin a driving adventure.  The symptoms your child is experiencing are likely to be an unpleasant combination of nausea, vomiting, sweating and dizziness.  Throw in the subjective sense of impending doom that adult sufferers describe and you will want to do all you can to avoid and manage this nasty occurrence.

The brain receives information from both our eyes and ears to detect motion.  When there is a clash between the information it receives from these two organs motion sickness may result.  Motion sickness is most likely when movement occurs up and down, as well as side to side, such as on a boat.

Tips for preventing motion sickness

Not surprisingly an industry of preventive and treatment agents for motion sickness has arisen.  Unfortunately the evidence base to support the marketing of most preventive agents for children (including popular ones such as acupuncture) is slim.  The safety of proven preventives for adults is rarely tested in children.

It is more effective to prevent motion sickness than it is to stop it once it has started.  With this in mind the following may act as motion sickness preventives:

  • Positioning in a vehicle.  Although the common trick used to assist adults avoid motion sickness, sitting in the front of the car is not an option with very young sufferers, do sit them in the middle rather than third row of a car.  Sitting at the wing of an airplane or central cabin of a ship should reduce the extent of motion experienced.  If you know your child is a sufferer you may want to request seating or cabin positioning accordingly.
  • Avoid unnecessary head movement:  This can be done using a pillow or headrest.
  • A number of studies have indicated that ginger may relieve the symptoms of motion sickness.  Packing some ginger snaps may help avoid nasty vomits.
  • Avoid overheating by opening windows, or using the air conditioner.
  • Prevent your child from reading, doing puzzles or drawing while in motion.
  • The likelihood of children experiencing motion sickness increases after the age of two.  If planning a trip involving significant cruising or driving, and you are worried about motion sickness you may want to factor this into the timing of the trip.  For example, if you have flexibility you may schedule a trip when you little one is eighteen months instead of twenty six months old.
  • Recline your little one as far back as is possible.
  • Medication is not recommended for children under two years of age to treat motion sickness.  Two medication types, anti-histamines and anti-cholinergics are the mainstay of medical management for over twos.   The anti-histamines promethazine theoclate, promethazine hydrochloride and dimenhydrinate are approved for use in Australia.  They should be given at least 30 minutes before travelling.  Although usually sedative, children may become over-active on these medications.  A trial at home before travelling is wise. Hyoscine hydrobromide is about as effective as the anti-histamines but less sedating.  Although medications to treat motion sickness cause sedation don’t use these on long plane trips deliberately as sedatives. Always discuss your plans to use any of these medications with your doctor.

What to do if your child is experiencing motion sickness

  • Reduce your child’s sensory input.  Do this by laying your child down, getting them to close their eyes or to wear an eye mask.
  • Distraction:  Sucking a lolly or a smelling a mint fragranced handkerchief might temporarily stave off symptoms.  Don’t distract using activities such as reading, or coloring in as they may worsen symptoms.
  • Medication: Promethazine theoclate, promethazine hydrochloride, dimenhydrinate and hyoscine bromide may be used for continuing management of motions sickness usually six hours after the initial dose (but check the instructions on the packet).








© Copyright 2012 Danielle, All rights Reserved. Written For: Bubs on the Move