What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness, also called car sickness, is something that many parents dread on long car trips.

Motion sickness occurs when the brain gets mixed messages.  There is a reflex connection between the inner ear and the muscles that control the position of the eyes.  Riding in a car, on a boat, or on a carnival ride can confuse these pathways, and send conflicting messages to the brain.  For example, a child riding in the back seat of a car is seeing the car seat in front of them which is still, but their inner ear tells the brain that they are moving.   This mixed message resulst nausea and vomiting.

Most people outgrow car sickness with age.  Car sickness is usually the worst between ages 2 and 12.

Different remedies for car sickness have been tried, such as chewing gum and ginger candies.    Sitting in the front seat for adults, placing children who have to ride in the back seat on a taller booster seat, looking  out at the horizon, and avoiding reading or looking down can also be helpful.

For severe cases of motion sickness, certain medications such as scopolamine patches, dimenhydrinate (Dramamine),  or meclizine can be helpful.

car sickness

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