End Carsickness Now! Read These Tips Before Your Next Road Trip

Some kids get sick nearly every time they are in the car for more than fifteen minutes. Other kids react with an upset tummy only to long car rides. No matter when it strikes, carsickness is no fun for parents or kids.  

For many grown-ups, carsickness evokes unpleasant memories of feeling nauseous and horrible. It makes them wonder, “Hey, are we ever going to get there?” It is an unpleasant phenomenon, but there are tricks that may help prevent or mitigate its onset. 

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Image via Flickr/ Erik Przekop

 Jack Maypole is an advisor to The Goddard School and a pediatrician for medically complex children at Boston Medical Center. According to Dr. Maypole, typically carsickness (and its more exotic relative, seasickness) is triggered when the centers of the brain that perceive balance and movement through space become confused by the unnatural sensations of sitting in an automobile moving at speed. These motions, in tandem with a child's tendency to look down from the horizon (at say, a book or a LEGO kit) can cause the onset of the dreadful feeling of being carsick. Ick, right? The lack of visual input (gazing down) tends to confound balance and proprioceptive centers, which cannot figure out what is going on. Nausea, and in the worst cases, vomiting can ensue. Here's how you can avoid that.

  • Sit carsick-prone passengers in a place where they can be encouraged to look out the window. Play games, sing songs, or keep them busy as much as you can (meaning fewer toys or screens in their laps), and you may find they are less likely to feel ill if they are gazing away, and not down. Ask kids to spot things outside of the car by playing “I Spy” or spotting cows or trucks to encourage them to keep looking out.  
  • Use fresh air when possible. Cracking a window when driving can offer a cool breeze that dampens that spiral of feeling overheated and crummy. Or, sitting a child near an AC vent may work well. If someone does not feel well, pull over and encourage him to walk around a bit until the nasty feeling subsides. 
  • Don't underestimate the psychic aspect of carsickness. Studies done in the middle of the last century on military recruits found that subjects who were told they were likely to feel motion sick were far more likely than those who weren't. For your kids, keep it positive, and radiate confidence that your special approaches can work.  Even if they get car sickness frequently, don't indicate that you expect them to get sick!  
  • Avoid heavy meals and junk food before a ride. Greasy, fatty food tends to sit in the stomach longer and may predispose your kids to feel that nausea we want to avoid. Stick to light snacks, such as fruit or bagels. 

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After using these tips, you will find your car rides are much more pleasant!  And if none of this yields results be sure to speak to your pediatrician about carsickness.

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End Carsickness Now! Read These Tips Before Your Next Road Trip

Jamie is a Beltway Insider who loves channeling her pre-motherhood love of traveling into spending time exploring all D.C. has to offer with her brood of two girls and two boys ages 9, 7,5, and a baby. She is a reformed lawyer turned full-time kid wrangler who enjoys photographing her everyday chaos and anything salted caramel. Since life is never dull, she loves writing about the issues and events going on in her life at any given time, including caring for a daughter with special needs and th ... More

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