Motion Misery: Helping Kids Cope

A rather desperate AKontheGO Mom called me the other day and asked if AK Kid had ever experienced motion sickness. It seems her daughter, five, has trouble in varying degrees upon varying modes of transportation, and she, a traveling mama, was nearing her wits end.

Fortunately for our little family, no one seems to have ever suffered from sea-car-air-sickness; that rolling, queasy, sort of weird feeling that comes and goes and can make travel of any sort quite, well, miserable. The only time I felt even the slightest twinge was aboard our the Veendam two summers ago while crossing the wide open spaces in between Seward and southeast Alaska. Windy weather, highish seas, and a plethora of food may have had something to do with the scenario playing out as it did, but I will never forget the odd sort of sensation that something in my body was not quite right. And I’m a grownup. Imagine how a child feels.

Thus began my quest this week to find out how parents can mitigate the misery of their children’s upset tummies. I turned to my go-to Dr. Gal Pal, Michelle Laufer, a pediatrician, mom, and Dr. Kids These Days  (I know she loves that title). She understands how much Alaskan visits rely on transportation; vast amounts of real estate require air,land, sea, and sometimes rail to get us to the next attraction, and if a child cannot tolerate one mode, often there is just no other way.

Motion sickness stems from a disconnect between visual cues (looking from inside a moving boat, for example) and cues the inner ear receives from the movement that is actually going on, according to Laufer. Simply put, our brain is getting different signals from our body and, worst case scenario, the two collide violently to upset stomachs, emotions, and our children.

 So, some helpful tips a’la Dr. KTD:

1. Keep it fresh! The air, that is. Even if the weather is downright frosty, crack a window in the car, go up on the top deck of a boat (if you can), or out the back of the train (if they let you). Even the slightest bit of fresh air can blow away the queasies.

2. Look far, far, away. We love those movies, books, and DS’s, but really, parents, what you always suspected is true: looking down while scenery rushes by might lead to sickness. Encourage kids to look out the window instead, playing “I Spy” or listening to a book on CD while gazing out the windows.

3. Seating arrangements. Yep, that back seat just leads to less chance for looking out, and the body instead moves inward, causing upset stomachs and headaches. Put the motion sick-prone kids next to a window towards the front of the car. (yes, we know not to put kids in the front seat, right?)

4. Fill ’em up, sort of. Just like when mommies are pregnant and not feeling well, we need to keep smaller tummies a little bit full to soothe, rather than growl. Crackers, fruit, mild foods work better than strong cheeses or sugary snacks.

5. Watch progress. Or, digress….if kids start to sweat or appear pale, take a break outside the vehicle or move about the train, boat, plane. Be proactive; if your kid tends towards sickness, take a break every hour or so.

6. Remedy the situation. Herbal teas, ginger ale and other mild drinks can help. Ginger drops or pieces are too strong for many kids. Dramamine can be given to kids over the age of 2, as can Benadryl. Warning: try before you go. Ahem, some kids are actually wired after taking these medications. Yikes.  Sea Bands (wrist bands) have worked for some kiddos, if they keep them on, so best for age 3 or over. Scopalamine pataches are NOT recommended for kids under 12.

AK Mom, let me know what works! And you other parents, let us know what worked for your kids. We have miles to go before we puke, eh?

Posted in General Travel Info, Health and Safety.