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Car Sickness can strike at any time - usually when you least want it to

Car Sickness can strike at any time - usually when you least want it to

Car sickness, or Motion sickness, can affect us all; mainly as a driver when we hear the words "I feel sick" from behind us in the passenger seats.

Stop-start traffic due to jams and roadworks, and winding country roads only make the condition that affects around 60% of all car passengers at some stage worse - and it seems that it worse in children and teenagers.

"Car sickness can turn an eagerly awaited family trip into a nightmare, with mum and dad nervously looking over their shoulders and fearing the worse" said Eike Schmidt, research engineer at the Ford Research and Innovation Center, in Aachen, Germany. "Comfort is a huge focus for the way we design the cars of the future – and we want to do everything we can to reduce car sickness."

But there are things that we ourselves can do to help those who do suffer, and things that they can do themselves too.

Prof. Dr. Jelte Bos, of TNO, Perceptual and Cognitive Systems, Soesterberg, in the Netherlands, tells us that: "Car sickness is a complex problem. It is a natural reaction to an unnatural stimulus that cannot be cured as such. But we can look to alleviate the symptoms."

According to Jay L. Hoecker, M.D. in an Mayo Clinic article,"Motion sickness occurs when the brain receives conflicting information from the inner ears, eyes and nerves in the extremities.

Imagine a young child sitting low in the back seat without being able to see out the window — or an older child reading a book in the car. The child's inner ear will sense motion, but his or her eyes and joints won't. The result might be an upset stomach, cold sweat, fatigue, and loss of appetite or vomiting."

So here are some ways that Dr. Hoecker, Prof. Bos and the Medicine net website offer up as ways that car sickness can be prevented by working as a team in the cabin.

  • Be careful what is eaten and drunk before travelling. To avoid car sickness it is best to avoid excessive alcohol, fatty foods, spicy foods and food to excess.
  • It is also good to avoid having to breathe in any strong food odours or smells from others foods (i.e. if you don't suffer, think of others and put those mackerel and garlic sandwiches away).
  • Bland and dry foods are best, like ginger biscuits, with cola a good drink - but avoid coffee.
  • Try to choose a seat where you will experience the least motion. It is best to sit in the front seat of the car, but with children this is often not an option, especially with dangers inherent in air bags. So for them, and other rear seat passengers, try and sit in the middle at the back so you can see what is ahead of you, rather than watching the world shoot by on one side or the other. 
  • In some cars, it is possible to travel backwards from your direction of travel. If you suffer from car sickness, it's simple. DON'T!
  • Use a travel pillow if you have one to keep your head as still as possible. And if you (or the children) can sleep, then do it.
  • Do not read while travelling if you are prone to motion sickness. And avoid watching screens while travelling. However tempting it is to keep kids quiet by giving them an Ipad or other such tablet, weigh up the options between quiet and having to clean the car after they have been sick because they have been watching it too much.
  • If your child is prone to car sickness, try distracting him or her during car trips by talking, listening to music or singing songs.
  • Avoid talking about car sickness during the trip too. Nothing is more likely to incur car sickness in someone than by someone talking about it.
  • Open a vent or source of fresh air if possible. Adequate air ventilation might help prevent car sickness. If air-con is available in the car, use it. 
  • Drivers. Drive smoothly and avoid sudden stops, acceleration and movements. And avoid potholes wherever possible.
  • There are some medicines that claim to be an effective preventative measure for both short and long trips, some of which are available over the counter, and some prescribed via a doctor. Be careful which ones you choose, and which are acceptable for use with age restrictions, especially with side effects. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) is approved for kids 2 and older, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be used for kids 6 and older.  
  • If your child starts to develop car sickness, stop the car as soon as possible and let your child get out and walk around — or lie on his or her back for a few minutes with closed eyes. 

Apart from all these worries, have a good holiday!