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Motion sickness - stop, I need to throw up!

sickness; travel; eyes; ears; receptors; cars; motion; dog;


What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is that woozy feeling you may get when travelling in a car, bus, train or plane.

I remember the horror of having to stand near the door of a bus for the entire journey when I was a child. The smell of tyres and exhaust fumes would have me heaving before the bus even started!

But that was in the 'olden days' of course. Nowadays there are many ways of dealing with motion sickness, or travel sickness, or car sickness, as it is sometimes called.

Why you can get motion sickness

You feel movement because several parts of your body work together to tell your brain what they are experiencing.

  1. motion sicknessYour ears. In the semi circular canals of your inner ears there is a liquid. Whichever way you move this liquid moves too and lets your brain know which way you are moving.
  2. Your eyes. Whatever your eyes can see sends a message to the brain about which direction you are moving in.
  3. Your muscles and joint sensory receptors. These tell your brain how your muscles are moving and whether you are standing, sitting, rolling, or whatever your body is doing.
  4. Your skin receptors. These tell your brain which parts of your body are touching the ground.

All these working together give your brain the full story of where you are and what you are doing. Motion sickness happens when one or more messages don't match up with the others.

You may be on a boat but you are being thrown around so that your body keeps losing contact with the deck or where you are sitting or leaning against.

really, really sick
You may be in a car or bus playing a game or reading. Your brain gets the message that you are still from your eyes and muscles but also gets the message that you are moving forward from your ears and other muscles. Your brain can get mixed up. Then you can feel dizzy, tired, or really, really sick.  

What you can do

If you are in a car.

  • Look through the window at something in the distance.
  • Play games like "I spy" where you need to look outside the car rather than reading or playing hand held electronic games.
  • Listen to music, the radio or a talking book.
  • Open the window to get some fresh air.
  • Don't eat snacks or food in the car, wait until you stop. (A dry plain biscuit may be ok. and may help you feel better.)
  • Eating spicy, greasy or other foods which smell strong may make you feel worse.
  • Ask to stop before you are just about to throw up!
  • Regular stops where you can get out and run around for a while are really helpful.
  • Sit facing the way you are going if you are on a train.
  • Avoid going for rides at a funfair - you will not be popular with others if you start throwing up.
  • Your parent or caregiver could ask your doctor or chemist about a special wristband or tablets that might help if you are often suffering from motion sickness.

As sick as a dog

Do you have a dog that gets car sick?

dogs can get motion sickness too!You can usually tell if your dog is feeling sick because it will start to drool. That means that saliva will start coming out of its mouth much more than usual, even if it is a 'drooly' type of dog like a Saint Bernard.

Sometimes you have to take your dog in the car, and this can be a horrible experience for you and the dog if it suffers from motion sickness.

Sometimes dogs are sick because they are afraid.

It's a good idea to introduce your dog slowly to being in the car.

  1. Let it sit in the car with you without going anywhere for a while until it's used to how it feels.  
  2. Take it on little trips in the car, to the local deli or park.
  3. Make sure it can see outside the car.
  4. Open a window or use the air conditioner on a hot day.
  5. On a long trip make sure you have short stops where it can have a quick walk and a wee before driving on.
    make short stops for the dog
  6. Talk to your vet if your dog is a really awful traveller as they can suggest some medication which will help.

Kids say

  • "I don't like to eat big things in the car. If I feel sick I just want to go to bed." Catriona
  • "A few days ago I was in the car for too long. I was finding it hard to breathe. Finally I couldn't take it any more. Then I threw up." Christian
  • "When I get sick in the car I open the window and warn Mum." Emily
  • "When I was 4 years old I was going on an aeroplane. My mum gave me a tablet when I felt sick. I didn't get any worse but I almost vomited." Ben
    planes can make you sick
  • "I felt really sick on the car ferry but dad took me on deck and we looked out to where the sky meets the sea and it was cold and windy but I didn't throw up." Mel
  • "I feel sick sometimes if other people are sick." B
  • "I used to feel sick in the car, but I am ok if I sit in the front seat, now that I am old enough to be allowed legally to sit there." Michael

Dr Kim says

Dr KimTravel can become a nightmare for everyone around if someone nearby is sick. Even worse if you're the 'someone'! If you have tried our tips and you still have problems then your doctor is the best person to help you.

Happy travelling! 

Stopping and walking the dog around is good for both of you on a long trip.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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