Children's Hospital Colorado

Motion Sickness

Urgent or Emergency Care?

If you believe your child needs immediate attention and you have concerns for a life-threatening emergency, call 911. Not sure what counts as urgent and what's an emergency when your child is sick or injured? When it can't wait, know where to take your kids.

Help Me Decide

  • Symptoms triggered by a spinning, rocking or rolling motions
  • The main symptoms are dizziness and nausea

Symptoms of Motion Sickness

  • Dizziness and unsteady walking
  • Nausea and vomiting are also common
  • Before age 6, the main symptom is dizziness and the need to lie down.
  • After age 12, the main symptom is nausea (feeling sick to the stomach).

Causes of Motion Sickness

  • Symptoms are mainly triggered by motion. Sea sickness or amusement park sickness are the most common types. Fun-park rides that spin or whirl are some of the main causes. The Tilt-a-whirl is a good example of a ride to avoid. Also seen during travel by train, aircraft and even car.
  • The cause is a sensitive center in the inner ear. This center helps to maintain balance.
  • As a car passenger driving on winding roads, 25% of people will have symptoms. Under extreme conditions (e.g., high seas) over 90% of people have symptoms.
  • Strongly genetic: If one parent has it, 50% of the children will have it.
  • It is not related to emotional problems. The child cannot control it with will power.
  • Motion sickness symptoms are often worse in children.

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Motion sickness symptoms last more than 8 hours
  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Motion sickness symptoms

Care Advice for Motion Sickness

  1. What You Should Know About Motion Sickness:
    • Motion sickness is a common normal reaction that occurs in 25% of people.
    • Caused by increased sensitivity of the inner ear.
    • It is not related to emotional problems or any physical disease.
    • In the future, take a special medicine ahead of time to prevent it.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. Rest - Lie Down:
    • Have your child lie down and rest. If your child goes to sleep, all the better.
  3. Fluids - Offer Sips:
    • Give only sips of clear fluids. Water is best. Do this until the stomach settles down.
  4. Vomiting:
    • Prepare for vomiting. Keep a vomiting pan handy.
    • Usually, children don't vomit more than once with motion sickness.
  5. What to Expect:
    • All symptoms of motion sickness usually go away in 4 hours after stopping the motion.
    • As for the future, people usually don't outgrow motion sickness. Sometimes, it becomes less severe in adults.
  6. Motion Sickness Medicine - Prevention:
    • Buy some dimenhydrinate tablets (such as Dramamine) at your drug store. No prescription is needed. In the future, give it to prevent motion sickness.
    • They come in 50 mg chewable tablets or 15 mg-per-teaspoon liquid.
    • Dosage:
    • Age 2 to 6 years old: 1 teaspoon (5 ml)
    • Age 6 to 12 years old: 1 tablet
    • Age 12 years and older: 2 tablets
    • Give the medicine 1 hour before traveling or going to a fun-park.
    • The tablets give 6 hours of protection and are very helpful.
    • Benadryl can also be used to prevent motion sickness. Use this if you do not have any Dramamine.
  7. Prevention Tips for Car Trips:
    • If your child is over 12 years old, sit him in the front seat.
    • Before age 12, have your child sit in the middle back seat. This should help him look out the front window.
    • Have your child look out the front window, not the side one.
    • Discourage looking at books or movies during car travel.
    • Keep a window cracked to provide fresh air.
    • Avoid exhaust fumes from other vehicles.
    • Meals: Have your child eat light meals before trips. Some children can just tolerate crackers and water.
    • Plastic Bags: Always carry a ziplock plastic bag for vomiting emergencies.
  8. Wrist Bands - Prevention:
    • Acupressure bands (such as Sea-Bands) are helpful for some adults.
    • There is no reason they shouldn't work for some children.
    • Put them on before car trips or other causes of motion sickness.
    • The pressure button goes over the center of the wrist. Place ½ inch (1 cm) above the wrist crease.
  9. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Any symptoms last over 8 hours
    • You think your child needs to be seen
    • Your child becomes worse

Disclaimer

The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

If you think that your child is having a medical emergency, call 911 or the number for the local emergency ambulance service NOW!

And when in doubt, call your child's doctor NOW or go to the closest emergency department.

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