Mum! I’m sick | Tips for travel sickness

Does your child suffer from travel sickness? Tiffany Brown has some tips that might help.

Travel or motion sickness can occur at any age, causing a range of symptoms from mild nausea to dizziness, sweating, or vomiting. Sufferers may exhibit a pallor, drool, become short of breath, or be drowsy. Headache, yawning, or a general feeling of malaise or discomfort may also indicate a person is suffering from motion sickness.

Experts have determined that the condition strikes as a result of sensory conflict. The movement that your eyes see differs from the movement your muscles feel, which differs again from what your inner ear is sensing. The inner ear, in particular, controls our sense of balance. It’s thought that the brain struggles to cope with all these mixed signals when in motion, and, as a result, you feel dizzy or ill.

Motion sickness most commonly occurs when travelling in cars or boats, but can also strike in planes or trains.

A relatively simple trick for adults to overcome motion sickness is to take the wheel of the vehicle, or sit up the front rather than the rear and focus on the horizon.

Children who suffer from travel sickness are disadvantaged in this regard, but at the very least they should face the direction the vehicle is moving (if they meet the criteria for their car seat to be turned forward-facing), and sit as close to the driver (in the back seat) as is safe and practical.

If possible, it could help to focus on a stationary object on the horizon. On a boat,they should go up to the deck and watch the motion of the horizon. On a plane, sitting by the window and looking outside will help. A seat over the wings is best, where there is less motion.

Keeping the head still and perhaps leaning against the headrest or head cushion part of the car seat can lessen head movements and calm the senses.

Fresh air can also help. If it’s not possible to open a window, you may be able to use air vents or a fan to blow air into the nauseated child’s face.



  • Heavy, greasy, or acidic foods are likely to make a sufferer feel worse.
  • Stick to easy-to-digest foods, like bananas, muesli bars, or bread.
  • Light, salty crackers are good to nibble on.
  • Ginger is a classic anti-nausea remedy; try sipping ginger tea or ginger beer, or eating ginger biscuits, or crystallised ginger.
  • Fluids and rehydration are important, especially if the motion sickness is accompanied by vomiting. Water, broth, light juices, coconut water, or herbal teas ‒ especially peppermint or lemon ‒ or iced teas are best.
  • Lightly carbonated drinks like soda water, ginger beer, or natural, low-sugar sodas may help.
  • Very sweet, caffeinated, or dairy-based drinks may worsen nausea, so steer clear of sweet sodas, energy drinks, or milkshakes.
  • Protein-rich foods have been linked with a greater tolerance to nausea, so having an eggy meal like an omelette before setting off on the journey could help.
  • Cold foods are more likely tolerated than warm or hot foods. Maybe stopping for an ice cream could help? Just be mindful of the sugar and dairy content, which could aggravate any sick feeling.
  • Even if the sufferer feels too queasy to keep food down, chewing can help. Try peppermint-flavoured chewing gum; there are also gums available specifically designed to help with nausea or travel sickness. Chewing overall has been found to help minimise the conflict between the senses.


  • Research has confirmed that distractions can alleviate symptoms.
  • Play some favourite music, or explore different pieces of music or songs in favourite genres that your child may not have heard before.
  • Play a game. The concentration required can take their mind off the physical sensations they’re experiencing.
  • Play an audiobook; again, the concentration required to listen, along with the distraction of engaging your child’s imagination, may help.
  • Devices or books are likely to make symptoms worse because they require a close focus. Put the screen down.
  • If possible, help children to nap or sleep on a journey ‒ the ultimate distraction.


  • Breathing exercises designed to slow and control breathing can be helpful. Get prepared before a journey by helping your child learn some breathing techniques.
  • Acupressure points. Do some research and help your child learn how to apply pressure at various points ‒ particularly the wrists ‒ which may alleviate symptoms. Acupressure bands are also available, which are worn around the wrist.
  • Aromatherapy may help; certain oils such as peppermint can alleviate nausea. Have the sufferer sniff directly from a bottle, or dab the oil on a cloth, garment, or tissue which they can sniff or tuck somewhere under the chin or near the head rest.
  • Both ginger and chamomile supplements have evidence to support their usefulness in alleviating nausea, as do ginger and chamomile tea.
  • Liquorice root may be able to ward off nausea and vomiting; you may find lozenges that can be sucked.

Medications for travel sickness

Your health professional may recommend or prescribe medicated antihistamines, pills, patches, or gum to help with motion sickness. In severe instances or if the condition is becoming progressively worse, seek support from a medical professional with skill in diseases of the ear, balance (equilibrium), and nervous system.

Here to find out what EVOLUTIONARY science has to say about motion sickness?

Motion sickness is thought to occur when the body gets mixed signals about movement. The brain combines information from the balance-sensing system in the inner ear, the eyes, and the body’s sense of where it is in space. If these signals don’t match up—like when your eyes see stillness but your inner ear feels motion, such as when you’re looking at a stationary object while traveling in a car—it can lead to symptoms like feeling sick and vomiting. Some scientists believe that motion sickness might have evolved as a way for our bodies to protect against ingesting toxins. This would explain why our bodies react to conflicting signals by making us feel sick, similar to how we might react to potentially harmful substances by vomiting.

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