What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness in children: Overview

Motion sickness is nausea that is usually caused by travel in a car, plane, train, or boat. It is sometimes called carsickness, airsickness, or seasickness. Some people also get it if they do things like play video games or look through a microscope.

Motion sickness can make your child vomit or sweat. It can also cause a headache. These symptoms usually go away soon after the motion stops. But sometimes it takes a few days.

You can treat your child's motion sickness with over-the-counter medicine or prescription medicine. You may also try having your child take ginger or wear acupressure wrist bands.

Motion sickness

Motion sickness is a general feeling of illness, nausea, and other symptoms caused by movement. It occurs when one part of your balance-sensing system (inner ear, eyes, and sensory nerves) senses that your body is moving, but the other parts don't.

Some medicines can help prevent or treat the symptoms. But when symptoms start, they may not go away until after the motion stops.

What are the symptoms of motion sickness?

Motion sickness can cause:

  • A general feeling that you're ill.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Headache.
  • Sweating.

Symptoms will usually go away soon after the motion stops.

How is motion sickness treated?

You can take medicine to prevent or reduce nausea and vomiting. These include:

  • Scopolamine, which comes as a patch you put behind your ear.
  • Medicines called antiemetics, which reduce nausea. Examples are ondansetron (Zofran) and prochlorperazine (Compazine).
  • Certain antihistamines, such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine (Antivert, Bonine). These may make you drowsy.

Some of these medicines require a prescription. Most work best if you take them before you travel.

These tips may help you feel better when you have motion sickness:

  • Eat a few dry soda crackers.
  • Sip on clear, fizzy drinks such as ginger ale.
  • Get some fresh air.
  • Lie down, or at least keep your head still.

How can you avoid motion sickness?

It's best to try to prevent motion sickness, because symptoms are hard to stop after they start. After symptoms start, you may feel better only after the motion stops.

These general tips may help you avoid motion sickness:

  • Move your head as little as possible.
  • Don't drink alcohol or eat a heavy meal before you travel.
  • Don't eat or drink during short trips.
  • Try to avoid strong odors and spicy foods.

In a car

To avoid motion sickness when you travel by car:

  • Sit in the front seat.
  • Don't read or watch TV or videos.

In a plane

When you travel by airplane:

  • Ask for a seat near the wings.
  • Eat small meals of foods that are easy to digest before and during a long flight. This may help reduce nausea and vomiting.

On a ship or boat

When you travel by ship or boat:

  • Book a cabin near the middle of a ship and near the waterline. Sit in the middle of a boat.
  • Try to get fresh air.
  • Look at a fixed point on the horizon.

Other tips

Many people try other methods of preventing motion sickness, such as taking powdered ginger capsules or wearing acupressure wristbands. There isn't much evidence that they help, but it's safe to try them.

How can you care for yourself when you have motion sickness?

Here are a few things to try:

  • Sit in the front seat of a car or near the wings in an airplane.
  • Try not to move your head.
  • Don't read or look at your phone in a moving vehicle.
  • Try a few soda crackers and a fizzy (carbonated) drink if you feel ill.

What causes motion sickness?

You get motion sickness when one part of your balance-sensing system (your inner ear, eyes, and sensory nerves) senses that your body is moving, but the other parts don't. For example, if you are in the cabin of a moving ship, your inner ear may sense the motion of waves, but your eyes don't see any movement. This conflict between the senses causes motion sickness.

You may feel sick from the motion of cars, airplanes, trains, amusement park rides, or boats or ships. You could also get sick from video games, flight simulators, or looking through a microscope. In these cases, your eyes see motion, but your body doesn't sense it.

What is motion sickness?

If you've ever been sick to your stomach on a rocking boat or a bumpy airplane ride, you know the discomfort of motion sickness. It doesn't cause long-term problems, but it can make your life miserable, especially if you travel a lot.

Children from 5 to 12 years old, women, and older adults get motion sickness more than others do. It's rare in children younger than 2.

Motion sickness is sometimes called airsickness, seasickness, or carsickness.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have nausea and vomiting that does not go away after treatment.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your symptoms do not go away within 3 days after a trip.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.