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  • Treating Motion Sickness

    What Is Car Sickness?

    Treating Motion Sickness

    In scientific mumbo jumbo, car sickness is defined as a condition in which the fluid contained in the semicircular canals of the inner ears becomes disturbed, and the eyes and inner ears dispatch conflicting motion-sensor feedback to the brain.

    When you're traveling in a car, the inner ears sense movement. But your eyes trick your brain by focusing on a stationary object within the car, like a book or a radio knob. When this occurs, the brain gets heaved out of whack and defensively reacts by stimulating the body's histamine reactors―which in turn instigate nausea and vomiting.

    If this all sounds too complicated to understand, imagine the semicircular canals as your body's version of those yellow fluid bubbles found inside a carpenter's level. When the fluids become imbalanced, stomach mayhem follows.

    Who Is Susceptible?

    Toddlers and young kids are the most vulnerable to car sickness, making some family vacations memorable for all the wrong reasons.


    Unfortunately, unlike other sicknesses, there are no annual shots to improve immunity to motion sickness. But fortunately, there are plenty of preventive measures you can follow:

    • Avoid back seats. Passengers riding in front are less susceptible to car sickness. If kids must ride in the back, make sure child safety seats are positioned high enough to allow them to see outside.
    • Always sit facing forward. This sounds obvious, but some station wagons and minivans feature backward-facing rear seats.
    • Focus on objects outside of the car. This coordinates the eyes with the inner ears. Car bingo works well in diverting a child's attention to the passing scenery.
    • Don't read if you're vulnerable to car sickness.
    • Open the windows and fill the car with fresh air at the first sign of queasiness.
    • Don't pack the car with strong-smelling foods, Mr. and Mrs. Tuna Fish Lover. This can easily compound the problem.
    • Don't avoid feeding your kids prior to departure under the false belief that an empty stomach can't get sick. An empty stomach is just as susceptible as a full stomach. If your kids complain of nausea, try to settle their stomachs with dry crackers or a slice of bread.
    • Avoid roads with frequent red lights. The stopping and swaying magnifies the inner ear's sense of movement.
    • Don't ignore the symptoms by driving faster with the intent of arriving at your destination faster. Stop at a rest area and go for a walk or toss a Frisbee. This might delay your arrival, but it far outweighs having to clean your car.
    • Consult your doctor for travel-sickness medications.
    • Try using accupressure bands on your wrists. They work well for some.