Family vacations offer fantastic opportunities to create special memories with your child—fun at the beach, adventures in the mountains, great times in the summer sun. Yet the traveling portion of your journey can temporarily turn your memory-making dream vacation into a nightmare if your child suffers from motion sickness. Motion sickness can strike whether you're traveling by plane, train, automobile, or even a cruise ship. And it's no fun for anybody.
Learning what causes motion sickness and how to prevent it can help your child and you feel better and enjoy your travels.
What is motion sickness?
According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, a person's sense of balance is maintained by a complex interaction of these parts of the nervous system:
- The inner ears monitor the directions of motion.
- The eyes monitor where the child's body is in space and directions of motion.
- Skin pressure receptors, such as in the joints and spine, signal what part of the body is touching the ground.
- The muscle and joint sensory receptors tell what parts of the body are moving.
Motion sickness can occur when the body's central nervous system receives conflicting messages from these four systems about the body's balance and equilibrium. Car sickness, for example, can happen when the inner ears detect that a car is moving but the eyes, when focused on something in the car, do not.
Dr. Warren Ljungren, a family practitioner in Dayton, Ohio, says the toddler years are often the onset of motion sickness, "typically because of the rapid development of the toddler brain and the increase of their own movement; the brain is responding to more complex signals."