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Experts Corner

Children's Health

Treating Traveler's Tummy
By Tara Kompare, Pharm.D.

It is while traveling with children that we are showered with everything except pleasantries. From hailstorms of goldfish crackers to projectile vomit explosions, you never know what is coming next.

Yes, motion sickness usually strikes at the most inopportune times. It is when we are strapped in our seats for take-off or driving at 65 miles per hour that our little ones tend to toss their cookies. Children are especially prone to motion sickness between the ages of 2-12. As kids grow older, their coping mechanisms and behavioral changes decrease the incidence of motion sickness recurring.

Motion sickness is triggered when mixed messages are sent to the brain from motion-sensing organs such as the eyes and inner ears. The most common symptoms include: dizziness, nausea, paleness, headache, and, of course, vomiting.

So, how do we prevent random acts of vomiting in planes, aboard ships, and on land? Although there is no cure-all, there are some things that can help:

  • Sit accordingly: The goal is to sit where there is as little motion as possible. In planes, ask for the seat over a wing. When aboard a ship, go for a cabin on a low level and towards the middle. In cars, despite the fact that there is usually less motion in the front, young children must always remain securely fastened in the back seat for safety reasons.

  • Eat something: A light snack or meal prior to departure helps prevent upset tummies. It is also a good idea to keep something on hand just in case of delay.

  • Wait to read: Reading a book while in motion sends mixed messages to the brain's motion control center. Although I highly encourage children to read as much as their little hearts desire, it is best to wait until they arrive at their destination to do so.

  • Look up and away: Focusing your eyes on a fixed object above eye level helps send the same motion signals to the brain. When on a ship or in an automobile, have your child look up at the horizon. On a plane, they can focus on a distant cloud.

  • Rock out: Adorn your child with some headphones and let them move it and shake it! When kids are able to concentrate on something else, like their favorite song, they often forget about the rock 'n' rolling in their bellies.

  • Let some air in: Obviously, if you are on a plane this would not be a good idea. But, when traveling by car or ship, it helps to get a breath of fresh air.

  • Pre-medicate: If you have a child prone to motion sickness, ask his or her doctor about an appropriate medication that may help.

Escaping for a family vacation is always a treat. And, hopefully, your next outing with your loved ones will be showered only with kisses, chocolate ones to be exact.

P.S.S. (Parent Sanity Saver): If you have a motion sickness-prone child, you may want to invest in some leather seats for your vehicle. Leather is much easier to clean than upholstery!

Top Over-the-counter Picks for Motion Sickness:

  1. 1. Dramamine: An antihistamine; Needs to be given one-hour prior to start of activity.
    Advantages: Quite effective when dosed appropriately. Available in child-friendly chewable tablets. Can be used in children as young as two-years-old
    Disadvantage: Usually causes drowsiness (This can be a good or a bad thing!)

  2. Sea-Band.: Soft elastic wristbands that apply pressure to acupressure points on each wrist; Should be applied prior to traveling or just after departure
    Advantages: Are drug-free; Can be turned into fun toys; Safe for young children
    Disadvantages: The pressure from the bands may irritate some kids May not be as effective as antihistamines

About the Author:
Tara Kompare, Pharm.D. is a doctor of pharmacy and mother of two amazing little girls. You can contact her directly at drk @ or visit her website at She encourages reader feedback and questions.


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