Beating Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness

By Chrystie Leonard – Managing Partner BestCare Now Urgent Care


It is fall vacation week for many of you and time to head to the beach or on a cruise.  It has been a couple of months and you almost forgot about what happened the last few times.  Need a quick recap?  You look in the rear view mirror and see your child has turned quite pale.    With almost no warning a cry comes from the backseat and shortly after the car is splattered with your child’s breakfast or lunch.  Yuck, you just can’t get to where you are going fast enough and now you need to make a pit stop to clean this up.  Sound familiar?

Seven years old child vomiting in car - suffers from motion sickness

Seven years old child vomiting in car – suffers from motion sickness

This is a common problem that hits almost every family.  It is believed 80% of the population experiences some form of motion sickness at one point in their lives and some get it just about every time they get in the car.   It is most common in children age 5-12 years old as well as with women. Many outgrow as they become teenagers but not all.  My poor husband is one of those who still gets motion sickness.  At age 45 years old he still can’t ride in the back seat.  A few years ago we were on a snorkeling trip in The Keys of Florida and all of a sudden he was not snorkeling next to me but back on the boat hunched over.  Just swimming in the water with the ocean waves was too much for him to handle.


So what is really going on?

Balance is controlled by the sensory organs telling the brain what direction the body is going whether it is standing still or moving.  These messages are then relayed to all parts of the body, including the inner ear.  Motion sickness can occur when conflicting messages are sent to the central nervous system.

Have you ever tried reading a book or looking at your phone while sitting in the car?  The inner ears and skin sense motion but the eyes see stationary words on a page.  Very quickly you start to feel dizzy or nauseous.   It is not known as to why some people suffer more or less from motion sickness.


What are the symptoms?

Children don’t often tell us when they are feeling ill in the car until it is too late.  I have four children and 3 of them were always sick in the car.  We learned to identify with some of these symptoms to give us enough time to pull over the car and avoid a mess.

  • Pallor (Skin turns pale)
  • Sweating
  • Belching
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Stomach ache
  • Vomiting


Prevent and treatment tips?

There are a few things that can be done to reduce the likelihood and feeling of motion sickness.  Depending on your age some of these things may not be an option.

  1. Be the driver – The driver is at lower risk because the brain is using its motor commands to drive the car and control motion.
  2. Position yourself – The passenger seat in the car is a good spot and have this person face forward, remain still and focus on the horizon.  The constant movement in the car looking into the back seat or out the side windows can further confuse the brain’s sense of motion.
  3. Food intake – Avoid having a heavy meal before traveling. Minimize eating and drinking at all during the short trips.  Why load up a tummy that is prone to not feeling that good.  However, my children have done very well with gum or a lollypop while driving.  These seem to preoccupy them or trick the brain.
  4. Entertainment – Looking down and reading a book or looking at a phone/ipad should be avoided.
  5. Take a breath – Opening the windows and taking some big strong breathes can help tremendously. My 6-year-old still likes to drive with the window down because he doesn’t not want to start to feel ill.
  6. Take a nap – Napping may resolve the conflict between the eyes and the inner ear signals from the central nervous system.
  7. Utilize pharmaceuticals – Scopolamine is a patch that can be put behind your ear. This patch must be put on 6-8 hours before traveling begins.  There is a class of pharmaceuticals called Antiemetics that reduce the nausea.  Zofran and Compazine are two examples.  Many of these medical options require a prescription from a physician.

 If you are the driver you might want to get smart and also carry a bucket or bag in your car.  Both of these things have saved me on many occasions.  You just need to make sure the child gives you a 15 second warning.

If you are concerned about your next trip, at BestCare Now urgent care we have licensed physicians available 7 days a week with extended hours to treat you and your family when you need it most.  Motion sickness, broken bones or lacerations we do it all! Visit us today at 500 Nathan Dean Blvd, Dallas, GA.