Here’s how to beat motion sickness – even when toddlers face backwards

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Sadly, motion sickness can also result in severe injury or even death in children.
Sadly, motion sickness can also result in severe injury or even death in children.

• Most children under the age of five are faced the wrong way in car seats.

• If one parent suffers from motion sickness, 50% of their children will.

As parents, we've all been there: experienced the woes of motion sickness in our children. It can turn a road trip from a pleasant experience into pure torture (for child and parent alike).

But, sadly, motion sickness can also result in severe injury or even death in children – because their car seats get turned around.

According to Charmagne Mavudzi, Head of Customer Experience at Volvo Car South Africa, decades of data support the fact that rearward-facing child seats are the safest position for babies and toddlers to the age of four. 

car seat

"However, most children in South Africa are not positioned this way. There are two reasons for this: lack of knowledge and motion sickness," she comments.

The latter is a common phenomenon.

According to the Seattle Children's Hospital, as a car passenger driving on winding roads, 25% of people will have symptoms. Under extreme conditions, over 90% of people have symptoms. It's also a genetic condition; if one parent suffers from motion sickness, 50% of their children will. Accordingly, some parents will do whatever they can to avoid motion sickness – even if it means turning a car seat around.

Mavudzi notes that – especially in Transport Month – this is a sad situation: "The tangible benefits of rearward-facing child seats have been documented time and time again. For instance, in Sweden last year, only nine children under the age of 18 died in road traffic accidents – and this is thanks to the widespread correct usage of these seats."

However, this simply isn't happening in South Africa and Dr Lotta Jackobsson – a world-leading child traffic safety expert with a PhD in Traffic Safety and Senior Technical Specialist in Injury Prevention at Volvo Cars – rues the situation. "Children up to four need to travel rearward-facing in cars, simply because their neck is too weak to support the head. So, you need to protect them," she advises.

Thankfully, the motion sickness doesn't need to be a deterrent to correct car seat usage. After all, the phenomenon is hardly new; adults have dealt with their children's motion sickness for a very long time – at least since 300 A.D., when "cart-sickness" was observed in ancient China.

Here are some simple ideas on how to prevent car sickness while travelling with your children:

  • Design your route to avoid bumpy rides
  • Take breaks on long journeys
  • Put down the book, iPad and colouring pages
  • Stick to light snacks and avoid heavy meals
  • Use natural remedies such as ginger and peppermint
  • Use over-the-counter medicine
  • Wind down a window
  • Offer distractions such as music and road trip games


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