Car or motion sickness in infants and children can quickly turn an everyday car ride into an unfortunate one. While motion sickness can affect people of all ages, children ages 2-12 are more likely to experience carsickness, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Motion sickness occurs when the brain’s motion sensors — the eyes, inner ears, and nerves — are not communicating the same motion messages. While the body’s ears may sense movement in the car, the inability to see out the window may mean that the eyes are not transmitting the message. The result is carsickness.
Symptoms of carsickness in children include nausea and vomiting, as well as cold sweats, dizziness, headache, fatigue, pale skin, and even drooling. When the car stops, the symptoms should cease.
Because infants and children are new to riding in cars, their bodies may grow accustomed to the movement, and carsickness will resolve all on its own. Antihistamines are typically used in adults to treat motion sickness and may help children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it’s a good idea to discuss your treatment options with your child’s pediatrician prior to trying any remedy, especially in children less than 4 years old.
In general, antihistamines are well tolerated by children. The typical side effect is mild drowsiness. However, some children have an adverse reaction to antihistamines and can become very hyper, agitated, or uncomfortable. If your doctor suggests antihistamines, it is a good idea to try them prior to your trip to know how your child reacts. Ask your pediatrician for the correct dose.
Medications are not the only treatment option. You can also:
- Plan a car ride around your child’s nap. Sleeping can provide the distraction needed to reduce motion sickness.
- Forgo large, pre-ride meals in favor of small snacks, such as bland crackers.
- Keep the air flowing and the car ride cool. Proper ventilation can help prevent carsickness.
- Encourage your child to look out the window.
- Take small driving breaks when possible, and encourage your child to take deep breaths.
If your child’s carsickness persists, talk to his or her pediatrician about alternative treatment options.
- Carsickness occurs when messages to the brain from the eyes, ears, and body do not all signal movement.
- Children 2 to 12 years old are most affected.
- Nausea, vomiting, headache, fatigue, and dizziness are carsickness symptoms.