Travel Sickness in Babies: Causes and Tips to Handle it

Taking your little one on a road trip for the first time and scared she will be uncomfortable? Fret not. Here are some important suggestions to avoid car sickness in your baby

By Shashwathi Sandeep

Travel Sickness in Babies: Causes and Tips to Handle it

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance” – Franklin P Adams, columnist.

For new parents, the arrival of a baby is exciting as well as exasperating, and once in a while, it cannot be less than a nightmare. They are still learning to handle their little bundle of joy. The best weapon for new parents is patience. One of the best examples of that is when they are travelling with their babies. Sometimes, infants and toddlers tend to get travel sickness as they are still new to the idea of fast movement for a long period of time.      

Causes of Travel Sickness

“During situations like travelling in hilly areas or with too much of turns, the inner ear gets stimulated due to the difference in signals from visual inputs and what your body feels, and this leads to motion sickness,” explains Dr Yogesh Kumar Gupta, Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Fortis Hospital, Bengaluru.

Elaborating further on this, Dr Walia Murshida Huda, Senior Medical Officer, Healthians, says, “Assuming a child is reading, colouring or playing with a toy while travelling, his eyes are still focused on the object whereas the rest of the body is sensing motion. The message that the eyes are sending to the brain is opposite to what the rest of the body is sending, hence causing sickness or a feeling of nausea or unsettled stomach. Excitement or stress can worsen the symptoms.”

So, is there a permanent solution to this problem? “It’s a benign issue, and with age, it gradually disappears,” says Dr Gupta.

Tips for an Easy Travel Experience

  • While the parents cannot solve the problem in its entirety, they can definitely take a few precautions when they are travelling with their infants. Dr Huda gives some pointers for a fuss-free journey with your little one --
  • Always carry a plastic bag, wet wipes and a set of clothes for change for your child while travelling. Keep these things within reach, especially the bags as vomits are usually a very sudden reaction of the body.
  • For infants, keep activity to a minimum. Try to keep your child as calm as possible, minimising the motion of the head.
  • It is best if the child sleeps during the travel time. That way, your infant will feel fresh and not be tired when you reach your destination. If possible, schedule your travel time according to the infant’s nap time.
  • Encourage your little one to focus on distant objects like the horizon or tree on the way. This activity will solve the ‘conflicting message to the brain’ problem to a good extent.
  • Make sure that the baby does not overeat before/during a journey. Keep light snacks or light home-cooked meals for the child. You should also make sure the child should never travel on an empty stomach as this can trigger nausea too.
  • If she vomits, remember to clean her well and keep her hydrated. You can give water or her favourite juice.
  • Keep your child distracted. Talk to him or sing songs or lullabies, to keep the mind away from disorientation. Also, make sure that the child is not focusing on a single object like a book or toy.

All said and done, the advice of experienced parents can always help. Here are a couple of parents sharing tips on how to get through this ordeal with ease:

“Give them some fresh fruits or fruit juice; they will feel a little energetic. Let them sleep if they need to; we parents get excited when we are travelling with our kids for the first time and don’t want them to miss out on anything, but for them, it might be a bit confusing. Don’t give them heavy food. Always carry some of their favourite toys.” - Shilpa Bedekar
“My baby had the same problem for quite some time. I used to give her medication as prescribed by my paediatrician, but only occasionally. Other than that, I used to give her saunf (fennel seeds), lemon and so on, and after a while, her travel sickness just went away.” - Shilpi Gautam

Yes, it is a lot of hard work, and yes, it requires a lot of patience. But, that one smile on your baby’s face when she hears the rustle of the leaves, feels the wind from the hills blow on her face or listens to the sounds of the ocean, all for the first time – makes it all worth it!