Motion Sickness and Holiday Travel

Published on 25 November 2013

Whether you’re driving 30 minutes or 300 miles to get to Thanksgiving or Christmas celebrations, car sickness can hit a child at any time. Nicole Gattas, Pharm.D., is also a parent and recommends trying several steps before turning to medications:

  • It’s best for kids to look straight ahead and not “fix” their eyes on any specific items. Also, don’t have them turn their head from side to side because it can bring on more waves of nausea.
  • Don’t play videos or provide books to kids who are prone to motion sickness.
  • Have them sit as close to the front of the car as possible. If you child is still in a car seat, move them toward the middle of the car. The same advice goes for airplane trips. The middle is the best.
  • Keep fresh air circulating, and keep the child hydrated with water. Don’t overindulge in food, even bland items like pretzels or crackers.
  • Strong odors can cause nausea, so take your time and stop for breaks instead of eating in the car.
  • If you know your child is prone to car sickness, be prepared.  Take a bag in case it’s needed along with bland snacks and water. 

The choice of treatment for motion sickness depends partly on age:

  • Acupressure bands, also known as SeaBands, are bracelets that can be worn in children down to two years of age.  They don’t have side effects, but may not work for everyone.
  • Dimenhydrinate can be used in children over two years of age and is available over-the-counter. It is sold as Dramamine and store-brand motion sickness tablets. Some kids get drowsy from this medication, while others can have a hyper reaction.
  • Meclizine, which is also sold over-the-counter, cannot be used in children under 12. It’s found on store shelves under many names, including Bonine and Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula.
  • For severe and persistent cases of motion sickness, prescription medication is available.

All medication should be given 30 minutes to an hour prior to piling into the car or boarding an airplane, and continued as directed on the product box until travel is over. A pharmacist will be able to answer many of your questions about appropriate medication. If you’re giving your child anti-nausea medication for the first time, calling your pediatrician is also recommended.

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