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Motion Sickness In Kids: Signs, Causes, Treatment And Prevention

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Motion sickness, also known as kinetosis, can be problematic if your family travels frequently. The condition makes a person feel dizzy and nauseous while traveling or taking amusement park rides.

Based on the environment it occurs, motion sickness is also known as airsickness, carsickness, or seasickness.

Children aged six to 12 years and women are more susceptible to motion sickness, and it is rarely seen in children younger than two years (1).

Motion sickness is not related to any underlying cause. However, any degree of motion sickness can cause discomfort to children. Here is a post on the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for motion sickness in children.

Signs Of Motion Sickness In Children

The symptoms of motion sickness may range from mild to serious and may include 

  • A feeling of not being well
  • Yawning
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased salivation
  • Burping
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness
  • Vomiting
  • Difficulty concentrating (2)

What Causes Motion Sickness?

The exact cause of motion sickness is not known. However, theories that try to predict the mechanism behind it are aplenty.

One popular theory suggests that motion sickness is caused due to the conflicting information that the brain receives from the inner ears, eyes, and sensory nerves. For example, when your child is sitting in the backseat of a car traveling through a curvy road, their inner ears may sense the motion, but their eyes won’t. This conflicting information that the brain receives can cause motion sickness (3).

Treatment For Motion Sickness

Mild to moderate motion sickness may not need any treatment, as once the triggering factor is eliminated, the symptoms resolve within 24 hours. However, if your child has severe symptoms, such as continuous vomiting and syncope, consult your doctor immediately.

In extreme conditions, your doctor might prescribe medications, including

  • A scopolamine motion sickness patch to be placed behind the ear.
  • Antiemetics medication to reduce nausea.
  • Antihistamines, such as Dramamine, to prevent the symptoms. This may make your child drowsy, so always take your doctor’s prescription (3).

Keep in mind that these medications are most effective when taken before you travel. 

Prevention Tips For Motion Sickness

Generally, motion sickness can be prevented by behavioral and environmental modifications. With some simple tips, you can help prevent or treat motion sickness in your child.

  1. Make your child lie down and rest. You may also encourage them to take a nap as soon as the ride starts.
  1. Encourage your child to remain calm, as anxiety may worsen the symptoms.
  1. Give them tips to always sit in a position such that the eyes can see the same motion that the body is experiencing.
  1. Give them small sips of water or fizzy drinks until nausea settles down.
  1. If your child is above 12 years, make them sit in the front seat, and if they are younger, make them sit in the middle back seat. This ensures they look out the front window and not the side window.
  1. Do not let your child read books, watch movies, or use mobiles during the trip.
  1. Keep the window of the car seat open to let fresh air in.
  1. Ensure they eat light meals and at least one hour before travel.
  1. Experiment and find out which snacks they can tolerate mid-way through the road trip.
  1. When on a boat, encourage your child to be seated up the deck and look at a fixed point on the horizon.
  1. In a plane, opt for a seat near the wings.
  1. Ginger is said to effectively reduce nausea and gastric activity and prevent motion sickness. Give your child ginger ale if they feel nauseated (4).

Motion sickness is a common condition in children. Although it doesn’t cause long-term complications, it may cause discomfort and spoil their trips. If your child experiences motion sickness, take the precautions mentioned above and try to make the trip as enjoyable as possible for them.

References:

1. Andreas Koch et al., The Neurophysiology and Treatment of Motion Sickness; Deutsches Arzteblatt Internationa
2. Alexander KC Leung, and Kam Lun Hon; Motion sickness: an overview; Drugs In Context
3. Motion Sickness; C.S Mott Children’s Hospital
4. Han-Chung Lien et al., Effects of ginger on motion sickness and gastric slow-wave dysrhythmias induced by circular vection; American Journal Of Physiology