How to avoid motion sickness on the road

Quote in 2 Mins
Retrieve a quote »

Motion sickness can be unpleasant for the whole family, especially on long road trips, and can make getaways a lot less fun. We provide some tips for avoiding and treating car sickness when you're travelling with children.

The Easter holidays are coming up and it's the perfect time to plan a road trip with the family. Unfortunately, motion sickness in children can make long car trips anything but enjoyable. Children between the ages of 4 and 12 are most prone to motion sicknessi and while sometimes this is simply a case of mild nausea, many children experience symptoms serious enough to really hamper family holiday plans.

If your kid gets carsick easily, try to play car games that require them to look out the window and focus on the scenery going by the window instead of a fixed point within the car like a book or a game.

Symptoms of motion sickness

The symptoms of motion sickness can include headaches, nausea, dizziness, hyperventilating, sweating excessively, losing colour in the face or turning red and vomitingi. In children these symptoms can be very distressing and once they begin to feel ill, the symptoms often don't recede until they are able to get out of the carii.

The cause: a clash of sensory information

Motion sickness is caused when the information your inner ear is sending to your brain conflicts with what your eyes are seeingi. Motion sickness can worsen when children read books, watch movies or play handheld games in the car, as their eyes are focused on one stationary point while their inner ear senses the motion of the cari. This sensory information clash is received by the part of the brain called the area postrema, which is very close to the area of the brain responsible for vomiting: it's thought that this is why motion sickness is experienced as nauseai.

How to prevent car sickness

The best way to minimise the effects of motion sickness is to plan ahead. A simple way to reduce the risk of your children getting carsick is to do what you can to minimise the sensory information clash. Try to play car games that require your child to look out the window and focus on the scenery going by the window instead of a fixed point within the car like a book or a game. For longer trips, it may be worth trying an audiobook or music insteadiii. Propping a child's head against a pillow so that their head remains as still as possible for the car ride can also helpiv.

If your kids are anxious about getting motion sickness because they have had a bad experience before, this can worsen the symptoms significantly. There are techniques that they can learn to help lessen their anxiety around car trips, such as breathing techniques or simply learning to distract themselvesi.

Motion sickness doesn't have to ruin family road trips.

Once someone begins to experience the symptoms of motion sickness, it can continue until the end of the car trip. If they are experiencing vomiting this could lead to dehydration and they may require medical assistancei. However, there are things you can do when someone in the car starts to feel sick which can help.

While there are a variety of over-the-counter medications available to treat motion sicknessv, it's advisable to speak to your GP if you think your child needs medication for motion sickness. If you decide to give your child medication you should aim to give it to them approximately two hours before they get in the carv.

There's also some evidence that ginger can ease nausea so giving a child a ginger biscuit to snack on in the car may help. However, if they don't like the taste of ginger, it may actually increase their sense of nauseai.

When kids experience motion sickness it can be stressful and unpleasant for the whole family. Being able to avoid and treat motion sickness is a great way to ensure that your next family road trip will be an enjoyable experience for everyone.

iBetter Health Channel 2014, Motion Sickness, Victorian Government, viewed 7 February 2014,

iiNHS 2014, Motion Sickness, viewed 7 February 2014,

iiiKidspot 2014, Curing Car Sickness, viewed 7 February 2014,

ivThe Pulse 2014, Travel easy not queasy, ABC Health & Wellbeing, viewed 7 February 2014,