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8 Ways To Keep Kids From Getting Car Sick


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

tips to avoid getting car sickIt 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

sucking on mints can keep passengers from getting car sickWhen TT was little we found that she car sicks if she was too hungry or too full. Ideally, we’d try to give her something to eat about a 30 minutes before getting in the car so she wasn’t hungry and had 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. If you can get your child to eat a peppermint like Altoids, which has real peppermint oil, ginger candy it sometimes can help.  Three Lollis’ Lollipops for morning sickness might be worth a try, too. They come in a half dozen flavors, some of which your kids might prefer to the ginger or mint. 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 avoid lurching and to creep along a bit more smoothly.

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.

napping kids are less likely to get car sick5. 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.

6. Be wary of colds

The worst days of Tiny Traveler’s motion sickness are behind us now—unless her ears are congested. If she has a cold or it’s allergy season and she’s all stuffed up then she’s likely to get car sick all over again. There isn’t too much we can do about that other than be careful to avoid winding roads and traffic jams and go easy on the breaks when she’s sniffly.

7. New products

If motion sickness persists as your child gets older, You can try a new product called the Relief Band, a high-tech solution, which I think somehow keeps your stomach from telling your brain to be nauseous.

An app called the Floating Book is supposed to allow people to read in the car without becoming nauseous.

8. If all else fails…

Some parents find that medications such as Dramamine or Bonine, antihistimines like Benadryl or homeopathic motion sickness pills like Boiron’s 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.

Non-medical aids like SeaBands (in the photo above) rely on acupressure to relieve motion sickness. Make sure you buy the child size.

We learned to stock the car with wipes, a disposable plastic container, a plastic bag for dirty clothes and extra towels for cleaning up messes (and extra clothes, too).  Some parents put a ziplock back in a plastic container so they can seal the mess up easily if they can’t stop right away. Others 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, the Mayo Clinic, has tips for helping the car sick, too.

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4 Comments

  1. April - My Bizarre Family
    January 17, 2014 at 6:39 am — Reply

    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!

  2. Crazed in the Kitchen
    January 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm — Reply

    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.

  3. Christy Garrett @ Uplifting Families
    January 15, 2014 at 5:23 pm — Reply

    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.

  4. January 9, 2014 at 10:03 am — Reply

    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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