6 Ways To Keep Kids From Getting Car Sick

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motion sicknessBy Eileen Gunn

For our first car trip with Tiny Traveler (to Washington DC), we packed the car up bright and early, then transferred 6-month TT from her crib to her car seat still in her PJs, more asleep than awake. We handed her her usual wake-up bottle and set off. Everything was great until she got car sick 20 minutes later on the New Jersey Turnpike and was trapped in her car seat bewildered, soaking wet and crying until we could pull over to a rest stop a long ten minutes later.

It seems most small kids get car sick at least once in a while, and if it happens regularly it can put parents on tenterhooks for even the shortest road trip.

Here are some things we’ve learned to do, or have heard of from friends to make car trips with car-sickness prone kids smoother and less messy.

1. Keep cool

Beware when your child starts to complain their too warm; it’s a short distance from being warm to being sick.  TT likes to take off her coat in the car (which is OK with me because car seat straps fit better without bulky coats).

Even during the winter keep the rear windows cracked when we can and we’re generous with the air conditioning in summer.

Some parents recommend keeping a thermos of ice chips in the car and letting your child chew on them every once in a while.  They’re cooling and the chewing motion helps with car-sickness, too.

2. Time your child’s eating

altoidsWe found that TT gets car sicks if she’s too hungry or too full. Ideally, we try to give her something to eat about a 30 minutes before getting in the car so she isn’t hungry and has had time to digest a little.

I found and other parents say that dairy seems more volatile than other foods. Avoid a large glass of milk or bottle of formula right before driving or while you are in the car — especially if you know you’ll be in heavy traffic.

Little snacks along the way help. Try lollipops or gingersnaps. Ginger or peppermint candy are good, too, if your child will eat them (TT will sometimes suck on an Altoid). Chewing gum is known to help if your child isn’t too small for it.

3. Skirt traffic

Avoid stop-and-go traffic if possible. That lurching motion is awful for people who get car sick (it’s even made me queasy from time to time). If you do get stuck in traffic, to go easy on the gas and breaks to make the traffic creep a little smoother.

Use the Map app on your Smart Phone to see where traffic is slow or stuck and find alternative routes.

4. Admire the view

Trying to focus on a book or screen that shakes with the car’s motion make motion sickness worse. So books, coloring, dvds, video games and tablets are all off the table, unfortunately.  Try music your child will sing along to, books-on-CD and games like I Spy to keep him entertained.

Some parents suggest putting the car-sick-prone child in the middle of the back seat rather than behind one of the front seats. This allows them to look out the front window into the distance, which they say can help.

Make frequent stops to get some fresh air and a break from the driving motion.

5. Take a Nap

Closing your eyes helps to relieve motion sickness. Asking a child to keep their eyes closed can be hard—unless you can find a way to turnit into a game. Driving during naptime when your little one is likely to drift off can stave off nausea and boredom.

car sick kids

6. If All Else Fails…

Some parents find that medications such as Dramamine or Bonine, antihistimines like Benadryl or homeopathic motion sickness pills can help for severe car sickness. Several of these will make your child drowsy, so they might not be ideal for shorter trips.  Check with your pediatrician about age appropriateness and dosage.

Medical aids like SeaBands (in the photo above) rely on acupressure to relieve motion sickness. You can find them in most drug stores for just a few dollars.

We learned to keep wipes, a small Bjorn Potty, a plastic bag and those receiving blankets from the hospital handy in the back seat (and extra clothes, of course). The blankets are good for protecting clothes and car seat (and for cleaning up messes if you miss).  The potty has also been handy for catching the mess when TT has gotten sick.  Some parents say that in a pinch, a disposable diaper makes a good catcher’s mitt if your child is still young enough to use them.

For more information, check out the Mayo Clinic.

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4 Responses

  1. Just learned about this iPad app that was created to allow you to read in cars, etc. without motion sickness. Would love to hear from anyone who has tried it!

    http://www.thefloatingbook.com/

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  2. Great idea on keeping a portable potty in the car. A bucket would work to. I am thankful that my kids don’t get sick in the car.

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  3. My 5-year-old gets car and air sick, so I really appreciated these tips! We have learned to ALWAYS travel with plastic bags–especially the ziplock kinds. The fact that they’re clear is kind of gross, but being able to zip them up cuts down on the potential mess.

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  4. I was prone to car sickness if I read too many road signs or ….anything really. Cracking open the window, closing my eyes and trying to nap always helped, along with sipping slowly at water. Great post!

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