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Preventing motion sickness in children

Updated on August 25, 2010
motion sickness
motion sickness

If your kids are frequently having motion sickness, trying simple tips can be helpful in preventing it. Before getting in to how to prevent motion sickness in children, let's start with what motion sickness is. Motion sickness is a condition where there is discrepancy between the visual inputs and vestibular inputs into the brain leading to a sense of imbalance which ultimately produces symptoms like dizziness, nausea and vomiting. It can occur in any means of travel, car, bus, air, or sea sickness. Children are more prone to motion sickness. It is most often distressing for both child and parents.

Two common groups of drugs used in motion sickness are:

  1. Anticholinergics: Hyoscine, Dicyclomine. They can be used to prevent motion sickness but are suitable for short journeys owing to their short duration of action.
  2. Antihistaminics: Promethazine, cinnarizine. They afford protection of motion sickness for 4-6 hours but they are less efficient and has serious adverse reactions,like hallucinations, agitations and breathing difficulties. So, they should not be used in children less than 2 years of age and should be used with caution in older children.

While using drugs to prevent motion sickness, following points should be noted:

  • Preventing symptoms from occurring is more effective than trying to treat them after onset because motion sickness reduces gastric motility and thus slows the drug absorption.
  • Anti-motion sickness drugs should not be used as sedatives for air travel because sedation plus low oxygen tension in air travel can be potentially dangerous for some children.

Well drugs have their own side effects and contraindications. It's wise to consult your doctor before using these drugs in children. Non pharmacological preventive measures have been shown to be effective in motion sickness. So, before switching on to drugs, it's better we use simple non pharmacological tips for motion sickness.

Simple non pharmacological ways to prevent motion sickness:

  • Help child focus attention elsewhere, out of the window, on the horizon where practical
  • Do not encourage reading or focusing on games while traveling. Closing eyes or taking nap is better idea.
  • Avoid unnecessary head movements: Use pillows or head rest
  • A light snack before traveling is good idea. Avoid large, greasy meals
  • Chewing gum during travel can be beneficial.
  • Keep the child calm: Motion sickness is more likely to occur if there is anticipation about one.
  • Have the child recline as much as possible
  • If traveling by car, seat child near the front of the vehicle,i.e., middle rather than third row in a larger vehicle
  • If flying, sit over the plane wing- the ride tends to be less bumpy.
  • Fresh cool air can help prevent nausea.
  • Ginger, owing to its antimetic properties, can be used as prevention of motion sickness.


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