Helping your kids with car sickness

Carsickness troubles children around the world. While most children outgrow the sickness as they get older, a few will continue to feel the symptoms throughout their life.

Understanding car sickness or motion sickness

In order to help your child during these times of distress, it is important to understand what the causes of car sickness are. Motion sickness involves the connection between what the eyes, inner ears (which sense movement) and skin are feeling. The body tries to piece these senses together to get an overall understanding of what is happening, so inconsistencies between them can trigger car sickness. For example, if the eyes are looking at something that appears to not be moving, while the inner ear senses that the body is moving, the result can be motion sickness.

There are many points of reference a person’s body uses to detect speed and distance. In a car, a child may not be able to see out of the window properly. Because of this, their inner ear would be sensing motion, but their eyes cannot confirm the movement. It is this  imbalance that may eventually cause carsickness.

It is unclear why motion sickness being more intense in some situations rather than others. However, it is believed that stress, excitement and anxiety can make the experience unbearable.

The signs of car sickness

Symptoms of this condition come in no particular order. Your child may suddenly vomit out of feeling dizzy or snap out of the sickness after a few minutes. Below are some common signs of carsickness:

  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Inability to speak
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to eat
  • Vomiting
  • Flushed face
  • Crying
  • Anxiety
  • Excessive yawning

Minimising car sickness

The obvious solution is to stop the car. Unfortunately, this is not always an option. If you have spare time, it is worthwhile to take a break and let your child get out and walk around to allow the inner ear to reset itself.

While in the car, try to make sure your child is not reading or playing with a phone or tablet. Encourage them to look out the window. If they’re bored, consider trying a game like ‘I spy’.

Ensure your child faces forward in the car. This helps because the eyes will show that you’re moving forward, and this will agree with what the other senses are feeling.

There are several over the counter medications available for mild carsickness, as well as pressure wristbands or bracelets that can help in some cases.

For reoccurring or intense reactions to motion sickness, it is recommended to speak with your paediatrician for a complete analysis.


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