Childhood dizziness: when traveling with children gets complicate

Childish dizziness in dad’s car is not exactly what you think when you sing that of  In dad’s car, we are all going for a walk …  What happens if the child gets dizzy? Can we do something? Let’s start by understanding what it is and how it is produced.

What is motion sickness or child dizziness?

Motion sickness is the dizziness that some people suffer, especially children, when traveling by car, train, plane, and above all, by boat. Fairground rides (both classic and simulators) can also be a cause of motion sickness

It is a problem that is especially unpleasant since, in addition to the nausea and cold sweats that characterize it, it is possible that as a final fireworks ride in Dad’s car ends in vomit.

Why does child dizziness occur?

Human beings are prepared for modern life, but to a certain extent. The means of transport or the flying cups of the amusement park are not something that in principle did not enter the plans of our organism.

The nervous system receives information from the sense organs about its position and movement. Dizziness or motion sickness occurs when there is a conflict between the information that comes from different places.

Thus, if we are sitting right now reading this post on the mobile, the signals that reach the nervous system are as follows:

– Eyes: sight sends the signal that we are still.

– Musculoskeletal system: we have our feet still on the floor (or on the sofa) and the receivers send the signal of their position.

– Inner ear: the fluid in the inner ear has no movement, that is, we are stopped.

It all fits together, and unless I decide to include some terrifying photos of my children vomiting in the car in this post, it is highly unlikely that anyone will get sick reading it.

What happens if we read this post on the mobile while we are in the car?

– Eyes: the view is still fixed on the mobile and sends the signal that we are still.

– Musculoskeletal system: the feet are also still on the floor of the car.

– Inner ear: the fluid of the inner ear, however, does suffer alterations indicating that there is movement.

In this case there is a conflict between the signals that reach the nervous system. The eyes and the musculoskeletal system tell you that we are standing, but the inner ear tells you that we are moving. The nervous system somehow “collapses” and responds by dizziness. Conclusion, if you are in the car reading this post, stop doing it. I don’t want to feel responsible for anything.

In the following video it is represented in a very graphic way (and peculiar, why not say it …) how dizziness happens:

Who are the most affected by motion sickness?

Childhood dizziness is the most frequent in children between 2 and 12 years old (before two years the nervous system is immature and after twelve years the motion sickness usually decreases).

There is a threshold beyond which motion sickness appears. The threshold is individual (there are children who get dizzy and children who don’t). However, there are some causes that lower the threshold, that is, they favor motion sickness:

– Lack of habit: when stimuli are unknown to the nervous system, motion sickness is more likely. Although there are children (mine without going any further) who always get dizzy, the truth is that the nervous system learns to recognize the different signals and to integrate them as “normal”.

I remember that when I was little and we went on field trips with the school bus, children who were less used to traveling were generally the most likely to vomit .

– Hypoglycemia : lack of blood sugar.

– Fear or stress: if a person is afraid of flying or riding a boat because they think they are going to get dizzy, they will most likely end up getting dizzy.

How to recognize the symptoms of motion sickness in children?

When you are the one who gets dizzy, you easily recognize the sensation, but how to recognize the alarm signals in children? When should we stop the car or take out the emergency bag?

A father with a kinetic son, with a master’s in cleaning car seats, knows if his son is dizzy at the first blow of the rear-view mirror. For first-timers or relatives, there are the four phases that you can easily recognize:

  1. Silence phase: the classics , is there a long way to go? when we arrived? I have pee! they disappear from the map. The children stop talking or at most make a cry.
  2. Chameleon phase:the color change of the creatures begins, managing the pale, nudé and water green tones, passing through the range of the ocher.
  3. Sweat phase: approaching the end, the beads of sweat cloud his forehead and his eyes go to the moon of Valencia.
  4. Tears phase:if we are not skilled, motion sickness results in tragedy and breakfast, lunch or snack decorate the upholstery in deconstructed mode.

Is there treatment for childhood dizziness?

Once the Chameleon Phase appears, the pace is practically unstoppable. Dizziness cannot be easily “cut” and therefore prevention is best.


  1. Food : It is convenient to avoid traveling immediately after meals. If logistically it is impossible, it should be ensured that the child eats little and preferably solids. In any case, remember that hypoglycemia can also cause dizziness, that is, having creatures with bread and water to prevent them from vomiting is not only not convenient but counterproductive.
  2. Schedule: each parent must find out what are the good times for their children to travel (which usually coincide with the hours of sleep). My children, for example, are taking long naps in the car. In our case, the trips are more successful for us at noon after a light meal, than at mid-afternoon, although they have hardly had a snack.
  3. Reading, video games, drawings: itis important to avoid keeping your eyes fixed on a point such as when reading, looking at the mobile screen, playing video games or watching a movie. Watching cartoons in the car can be a distraction for children, but it can also make them dizzy.

Instead, trying to distract children by talking to them or singing. Being a first-class driver can be much more helpful.

  1. Ventilation:Lowering the windows when children enter the Silent Phase or even the Chameleon Phase can be helpful. Take special care with patchouli-scented air fresheners that can stir the toughest stomachs. If you travel by boat, going out on deck frequently is advisable.
  2. Position:after the driver (who having control over the movement does not usually get dizzy) the passenger seat is the best to avoid dizziness since movement through the glass is better observed. Since children cannot travel in the front, the ideal seat for them is the center seat in the back. In the case of traveling by train or bus, it is advisable to avoid seats that go in the opposite direction of travel. By boat or by plane, the seats in the central areas usually have less movement than going aft or in the tail.
  3. Stops: Itis advisable for the driver to make frequent stops and breaks for children and adults to “clear”. It is important that children go to the bathroom to avoid being uncomfortable (stress favors dizziness) and to replace fluids (dehydration can also cause dizziness for other reasons).
  4. Be a first class driver:the driver’s expertise in curves or in gear changes can be decisive in preventing dizziness. To be a second-class driver, be careful with curves.

Are there any medications that can help prevent motion sickness?

Dimenhydrate ( Biodramina , Cinfamar ) or meclozine ( Chiclida chewing gum ) are the most widely used. These are EFP medications for which no prescription is necessary, although their convenience should be consulted, especially in the case of children.

The most frequent side effect is that they can produce drowsiness and therefore are not suitable for drivers (although in adult formulations it is in combination with caffeine).

For children it exists in the form of syrup and single-dose ampoules that are very practical. The dose varies according to age.

There is no bracelet-like device (not even miraculous amber necklaces ) for which there is scientific evidence against motion sickness.

The Apothecary’s Advice

My advice, in general , is to follow the 7 tricks individually. It is essential to know our children and adapt the trips to their needs, since, as we have seen, the threshold of dizziness varies enormously from one person to another. Although it is always preferable to avoid the use of drugs, dimenhydrate is a medicine that has proven to be safe for many years and its use can be interesting.

My advice, in particular , in case the 7 tricks and the dimenhydrate fail us, is to always carry several plastic bags (good, without holes) and wet wipes at hand. We always talk about plastic bags but we forget about wipes. Then what happens, the one who warns is not a traitor.

Since 1964 some have been asking for the famous “Bridge from Valencia to Mallorca” and there is no way. For now, as long as motion sickness exists, traveling by boat and plane will still not be wonderful. And even auto-stop. Luck!


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