Car sickness is a common problem. Over 80% of the population will suffer from motion sickness at some point during their lifetime. Children tend to have increased symptoms of car sickness right up to the age of 15. These symptoms typically include nausea, vomiting, fatigue and disorientation.
What causes Car Sickness?
Motion sickness (in this case known as car sickness), is caused by the large difference between what you can see, and what your ears can sense when traveling inside a vehicle. Our ears are used for balance and if there’s a conflict between the information that your brain receives visually from your eyes and your vestibular system (which senses motion), then your brain cannot process the information properly. This results in feelings of nausea and sickness.
In the case of car sickness, your eyes tell your brain that you are traveling at speed, whereas your ears tell your brain that you are sitting still. This confusion directly results to car sickness.
Preventing Car Sickness
Now that we know what causes car sickness, we can logically work out ways in which we can reduce the symptoms of it in order to make traveling by car more enjoyable. One of the first things to try when in a car is to sit still. Although this is often easier said than done when it comes to children, sitting still reduces the amount of movement that your brain has to process. A travel pillow or headrest is a great thing to use in order to try and keep your head still and therefore reduce the motion sickness caused by a moving car.
Focusing on the outside of the car is also thought to reduce the effects of car sickness. When it gets a bit warm outside many people are tempted to switch on the air conditioning. While this is a great way to cool down, fresh air from an open window is the best way to reduce car sickness symptoms.
Looking out the window at a stable object such as the horizon is also a good way to reduce the sickness effects. This is because looking at a fixed point in the distance helps to trick your eyes into thinking that you’re not moving. This will decrease the disparity between your eyes and your ears and alleviate any ill feelings. It’s important to focus on items that are outside of the car and not inside – reading or playing games are a sure way to make your motion sickness a lot worse.
If you have children, try to focus their attention on what’s going on out of the window, or distract them with music or stories to listen to during the journey.
If someone in your family is particularly prone to car sickness then ensure that they eat a light, healthy snack prior to embarking on a long journey. Eating food that is heavy on the stomach or greasy will actually amplify the symptoms and increase nausea.
Taking regular comfort breaks to use the toilet or have something small to eat is also a great way to break up the journey and relive the symptoms of car sickness for a while.
If all else fails
If you’re tried all of the above but to no avail, then it might be time to seek medical assistance. There are a number of medications that can be taken by people who suffer from motion sickness. Children tend to suffer worse than adults, so there is a larger market for children’s nausea medication. Medications such as Dramamine and Benadryl are great for tackling the symptoms.
Alternatively, you can also try acupressure. Travel bands are readily available from the majority of chemists and work by placing pressure on an acupressure point within the wrist area. It is thought that pressure in this area helps to alleviate nausea and vomiting. It’s important to remember that what works for one person might not work for another, so don’t rely on travel bands if you’ve never used them before.
Ginger is also thought to reduce car sickness. Apparently ginger slows down muscle movements in the stomach, which reduces the feeling of nausea. Like the travel bands, the ginger method is free from drugs and should not cause any unpleasant side-effects, but it’s always a good idea to check with a doctor has to how much ginger is safe to give to a child. You may find your biggest problem is getting your child to eat ginger in the first place as it does have quite a strong taste.
The NHS website is a great resource for finding out how to effectively treat motion sickness.