Motion Sickness – Pediatric Care Plan

By Chelsea Johnson, MD, FAAP
Medically reviewed
June 17, 2019

Here’s a link to our care plan that includes more information about motion sickness as well as things you can do to help your child bounce back. Return to K for Parents app if you have new questions or concerns about your child’s clinical course. Thank you for choosing K for Parents!


What is motion sickness?

Motion sickness is a common condition characterized by feelings of nausea, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, and sometimes vomiting – as a result of motion or traveling (in a car, boat, aircraft, amusement park rides).

What causes motion sickness?

Motion sickness occurs when the body’s sensory organs send mixed signals to the brain while one is in motion. It is strongly genetic and connected to a sensitive equilibrium center found in the inner ear. If one parent has it, 50% of the children will have it. 

It is not ‘behavioural’ or related to emotional problems, and the child cannot control it with will power.

What do I look for?

  • Unsteady walking (from dizziness), nausea, and sometimes vomiting 
  • 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)

What can I do to help?

  • Ensure your child always faces the direction of travel 
  • If your child is over 12 years old, opt for the front seat.
  • Before age 12, pick a seat where movement is less noticeable like in the middle back seat, where they can look out the window 
  • Recommend that they focus their gaze on a fixed point or object while looking through the front window (never the side one).
  • Discourage screens or reading while in motion as these aggravate symptoms
  • Keep a window cracked to provide fresh air.
  • Avoid exhaust fumes from other vehicles.
  • Have your child eat light meals before trips. Some children can just tolerate crackers and water.
  • Always carry a ziplock plastic bag for vomiting emergencies.
  • Avoid amusement park rides that spin or whirl (e.g. tilt-a-whirl)
  • Acupressure wrist bands (e.g. SeaBands) can also be helpful: place ½ inch (1 cm) above the wrist crease before car trips or other potential causes; the pressure button should go over the center of the wrist.

Motion sickness medicines:

There is a variety of preventative OTC medicines for motion sickness:

  • Dramamine (dimenhydrinate) comes in 50 mg regular and chewable tablets or in 25 mg Kids chewable. Give the Dramamine 1 hour before traveling or going to an amusement park. The tablets give 6 hours of protection and are very helpful.

Dosage: 

  •  2-5 years (12.5 mg): ½ Kids chewable
  •  6-11 years (25 mg): 1 Kids chewable
  • 12 and older (50 mg): 1 regular tablet or chewable

Do not use under age 2

  • Bonine is another special OTC medicine that helps.

If you do not have any Dramamine or Bonine, you can use Benadryl

When should I seek medical care?

See or call your doctor if:

  • Any of the symptoms last for over 8 hours
  • Your child’s condition worsens 
  • You think your child needs to be seen

Clinicians at K Health can virtually

  • Help determine if your child is suffering from motion sickness
  • Assess the severity of the symptoms and discuss preventative measures
  • provide appropriate dosing of over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications, if needed  
  • Help you plan for upcoming travel 
  • Recommend further evaluations and refer you to the most appropriate clinician or facility for care.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.