Motion sickness is the feeling experienced when your sense of balance is disturbed by constant motion such as riding in a car or aboard a ship. It can be extremely common with estimates that 80% of the population have suffered from it at least once in their lives. Whilst it may occur at any age, it is more common in children over the age of two, though the majority of children do outgrow the condition. Often considered a minor inconvenience, many travellers can continue to feel the effects several hours or even days afterwards. So when your childcare setting is planning outings or visits in cars or buses helping parents and yourselves to prepare and plan appropriately can make a real difference and help to prevent symptoms.

Why do we get motion sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting messages from the inner ears, eyes, and other parts of the body in response to motion.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can begin as a feeling of uneasiness leading to nausea and can be accompanied by dizziness, cold sweats and abdominal discomfort. Conventional treatment includes anticholinergics and antihistamines. Anticholinergics can be effective at slowing down messages coming and going from the brain whilst antihistamines help control motion sickness by influencing the part of the brain that controls nausea and vomiting.

What are the risk factors?

There are a number of common risk factors for motion sickness including;

  • Riding in a car, boat or plane
  • A child aged between 2 to 12
  • Commonly being prone to nausea or vomiting
  • If the individuals fear or anxiety levels are high
  • Poor ventilation
  • Sitting in the back seat or where you cannot see out the window
  • Pregnancy

What foods and eating patterns can help reduce motion sickness?

Aside from taking medication, there are a number of strategies and friendly foods that can help reduce the onset and may relieve symptoms:

  • On a short trip avoid eating or drinking immediately before your journey. Focus on lighter foods, which are easy for the digestive system the day before such as fish, steamed vegetables, soups, yoghurt.
  • On a longer trip eating small amounts little and often can help, such as rice/oatcakes.
  • Fresh lime/lemon in water can be sipped throughout a journey to calm the stomach.
  • Ginger has been widely researched. Consuming half a teaspoon of ginger powder mixed into water 20 minutes before travel may be helpful. Other ginger foods and drinks such as biscuits, ginger tea or ginger ale may also be useful on a journey.
  • Peppermint may help to settle the stomach and digestive tract. This can be consumed as a tea.
  • If you or your child tends to feel anxious and nervous then increase magnesium-rich foods (spinach, nuts, seeds, avocado) and apply magnesium oil before bed. This nutrient can help to calm and relax the body.

Other strategies that may reduce motion sickness symptoms?

  • Sitting in the front of the vehicle and looking ahead towards the horizon where the apparent motion of objects is less which helps maintain balance in the fluid between the ears.
  • Acupressure wristbands can help by stimulating the acupressure points that control nausea.
  • Distraction, especially for youngsters, can take their attention away from feeling nauseous. Listening to music, stories, playing visual games, singing and talking may distract.

Just in case!

It’s always worthwhile being prepared just in case a child does suffer. A few useful items to have handy include:

  • A couple of sets of clean clothes
  • A set of clean clothes for an adult
  • A couple of sick bags with sawdust, which will soak up moisture
  • Carrier bags
  • Wipes
  • Water
  • Some plain food such as oatcakes

Understanding more about the condition, symptoms and strategies that may reduce symptoms can be helpful and will hopefully prove effective for yourself, parents and the children you look after.

About the author

The Food Teacher, Katharine Tate, has worked as a teacher and education consultant internationally in primary and secondary schools for over 20 years. Qualified as a registered nutritional therapist, Katharine, combines her unique education and nutrition expertise to offer schools, organisations and families advice, education programmes, practical workshops, and individual/family clinical consultations.

Katharine also presents The Food Teacher show on UK Health Radio where she discusses the importance of food for health and wellbeing. She has published several books: ‘Heat-Free & Healthy’, the award-winning ‘No Kitchen Cookery for Primary Schools’ and her new series of Mini-Books. Look out for The Food Teacher at Food Festivals and events throughout the country during 2017.

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