Preventing motion sickness
Fortunately, there are several measures parents can take to help a child avoid getting sick.
- Opt for the middle: Whatever your child's mode of travel, help her find some middle ground—the place with the least amount of motion. This means sitting near the center of a plane over the front edge of a wing, or requesting a cabin in the middle of a ship. When traveling by train, sit near the window and face forward.
- Focus on the horizon: Try to have your child boosted high enough to see out the front window, then teach him how to focus on a distant, stationary object. "Watching things rushing by can not only contribute to the motion sickness but worsen it once it has started," says Dr. Ljungren. "It is much better to focus on a point in the distance which will decrease the stimuli to the brain."
- Try distraction: Sing songs, listen to the radio, or tell your child a story. Don't allow him to look at books or play games that require looking around in the car; this generally makes things worse because the child is focusing on something that doesn't appear to be moving; thus the inner ears sense motion, but the body doesn't.
- Snack smartly: An empty stomach can increase or worsen nausea or headaches. Be sure your child eats a healthy, low-fat snack before you travel; greasy or hard-to-digest foods will make things worse. Offer simple snacks such as crackers, fresh fruit, or gingersnaps during your trip.
- Take it easy: If traveling by car, check your vehicle's suspension to avoid bouncing and jarring. Stay on the highway and avoid winding roads when possible, and be gentle on the brakes when stopping.
- Stop often: When driving, plan for enough time during your trip for frequent breaks and allow the child to get out of the car. Running around at a rest area for even a few minutes can be very beneficial.
- Fresh air: Avoid strong odors, such as from smoking or food. Open the window at times to get some fresh air if you're in a car or turn on the air conditioning (be sure your child's "space" is receiving adequate ventilation). You can turn on the air vents also when traveling by plane. Children on ships can go to a top deck near the center of the boat for fresh air.
- Medicate if necessary: If motion sickness is nothing new for your child, talk with her physician about medications that reduce nausea. Dramamine, one of the more common medications recommended, is "an antihistimine which quells the nausea response and can even help with headaches often experienced with motion sickness," says Dr. Ljungren. "There is low rate of side effect, with the most common being mild sedation." With whatever your child's doctor recommends, follow the indicated dosage carefully, and be sure to give your child a dose before you leave on your trip. You may also want to ask your physician about other options for treating motion sickness, such as accupressure wristbands. "If the child has sudden onset [of motion sickness], consider having his or her eyes examined to rule out the need for glasses, as a change in visual accuity can preciptate motion sickness," adds Dr. Ljungren.