How can I keep my kid from getting car-sick?

My nearly-8-year-old has always hated being in the car for more than 15 minutes, and he has regularly gotten carsick on long trips (“long” = “more than 45 minutes”). There are a lot of things to see within a few hours’ drive of our home, but we really can’t do any of them because of the carsickness.

I have the opportunity to take him on a short driving trip to the DC area (we are in NJ, so it’s about 3 hours), and we could see the National Zoo, the Aquarium at Baltimore, etc. but I’m afraid it will be a disaster.

We can break the trip up into shorter drives and stop along the way, but I hate the thought of turning a 3-hour car trip into a 5 or 6-hour marathon because we have to stop for half an hour every 45 minutes.

So I’m wondering…do those Seabandz bracelets really work or are they a placebo?

Will Dramamine or Bromine make him fall asleep? Can you give that to a 55-pound kid?

Anybody have any other suggestions? I welcome any help.

I’ve read that ginger pills actually help, and those might be easier than dosing with some kind of anti-nausea medication. Ask his pediatrician?

Things that help avoid carsickness include sitting in the front seat (so you can see the road and thus expect the various motions of the car) and not reading/otherwise not burying your face in some kind of distraction (same reason). I love reading but would get carsick if I read in the backseat as a kid.

Sucking on a peppermint candy also helps me with mild nausea feelings.

You can get a strap that hangs down from the frame of your car and grounds it to the road. I never researched why it was supposed to work, it seemed pretty woo, but once it worked I was afraid to find out that it was woo and thus have my positive confirmation bias cancelled and go back to unhappy daughter throwing up on every trip. We also went with limiting the consumption of food and drinks in the car.

I’d look into putting him in the front seat. He’s 8, so he should be within the safe region of the airbag and the seatbelt.

Well, he’ll be 8 in May, but he’s small - only 4’4" and weighs 55 pounds. In NJ, legally he’s supposed to be in the backseat until he’s 8 years old OR over 80 pounds. He’ll be 8 next month but he’s a long way from 80 pounds.

There will be three of us in the car, we could probably let him sit in the front; I don’t mind riding in the back. But he has gotten sick in the front seat if the ride is longer than 45 minutes. I decided that, if an officer stops me for letting my son ride in the front, I will show him the used airsick* bag - if he still wants to write me a ticket for letting my son ride in the front, so be it. :slight_smile:

But I would never forgive myself if we were in an accident and he was injured by the airbag in the front seat - it scares me to be on I-95 for 3 hours each way with that risk. I wonder if there’s a way to turn off the airbag in the front seat.

*Yes, I admit, I steal the (unused) airsick bags from planes to keep in my car for my son.

I used to get carsick as a kid, and still have tendencies in that direction as an adult. My grandmother also used to be prone to motion sickness. I’ll tell you stuff that has worked for me, or for her.

Have the kid ride in the front seat. This always helped Grandma.

Make sure you have air flowing in the car at all times. The vent, heater, or air conditioner should be on, or else a window should be open, at all times. I find that I start feeling queasy pretty fast in a car where the air is not moving. There is a theory that motion sickness is due to conflicting sensory signals- some signals tell you you’re moving, others tell you you’re not. Air flow might help for that reason, since it’s unnatural to see yourself moving and not feel the air around you moving.

Keep sugar sodas, hard candies, or lollipops handy. The ideal here is to give one to the kid when he first starts feeling nauseous. At 8, he should be able to recognize this feeling. I used some of the gummy ginger candies from Trader Joe’s on a bus trip in Israel, and they worked well for me. Ginger is a well-known nausea remedy, but I’ve found that things like butterscotch disks work, too.

Make sure there’s water or some other beverage that he can sip from. I’ve heard from an acquaintance who is a doctor that that stops reverse peristalsis (which is a precursor to vomiting) and gets the peristalsis moving the right way. I know that, if I’m feeling nauseous, a sip of water can do wonders.

Watch what he eats. Fatty or rich foods, spicy foods, or fried foods are a no-no just before a trip. Milk is not a good idea, either. Right after might be OK, though- motion sickness can go away pretty quickly, especially for kids.

Stay away from strong food smells. Ask him which ones bother him, and avoid those. The smell of bacon or fried chicken makes nausea worse for me. You don’t want to eat in a restaurant that smells strongly of something that triggers nausea for him, nor do you want to have anything in the car that has a smell that bothers him. It’s not just food smells that can do it, either. You might have to look for unscented versions of things like sunscreen as well.

Have something for him to do in the car that won’t make him nauseous. Reading in the car is a no-no for me. I’ve known that since a pretty young age, but I would often get bored enough in the car that I wanted to read anyway, even though I knew it would make me nauseous. Listening to music or a book on tape, either on the car stereo or with headphones, shouldn’t make him nauseous. A DVD might be helpful, too, if you’ve got a player in the car.

Make sure you’re prepared for the worst. Have plastic bags (ideally, large Ziploc bags), paper towels or wet wipes, some water to drink, and a change of clothes for the kid, just in case. If he has long hair, have something on hand to tie it back. If he does throw up, get him cleaned up as soon as possible, and get the vomit out of the car ASAP. The taste and smell of vomit are nauseating to most people. Letting him sit there covered in vomit is likely to result in more vomit. Nobody wants that.

I was the carsick kid, and now the mom of carsick-prone kids. What worked/s for me:

First and foremost - don’t read, watch videos, play tic tac toe, etc. Watch your surroundings. For a kid, this may include sitting in the middle of the back seat, or in the front if he’s big enough, so that he has a better field of vision.

Second, ginger ale, candied ginger, ginger pills - any form of real ginger - is good for reducing nausea.

Driving at night may also help, since there are fewer visual cues that trigger that “disconnect” between the eyes and inner ears.

Finally - my mom learned this one over the course of years - learn to drive smoothly. Don’t “jackrabbit,” use inertia to slow down instead of slamming on brakes, move over to pass before reaching the next person’s bumper (so that you don’t have to slow down or speed up too much.) It helps a lot.

ETA: Forgot one big one, mentioned by Anne Neville. Keep it cool in the vehicle, and even if you need heat, make sure that the vent isn’t blowing directly on the sprog - especially on his face!

When you have someone who is prone to motion sickness in the car, it is definitely not the time to explore winding back roads. Stick to interstates as much as possible. This shouldn’t be a problem if you’re going to the DC/Baltimore area.

ETA: He should have the water and plastic bags in easy reach. He shouldn’t have to ask you for them. Nausea can come on pretty quickly.

Seabands are a placebo. Which means that they might or might not work on him.

I don’t know the dosage for Dramamine, but that’s what helps me the most in the way of medication. I get horribly motion sick, and the things that do help is having a large cool drink available. Even ice water helps. And frequent stops help.

Basically, you need to decide whether the enjoyment is worth the motion sickness. Even if he doesn’t actually puke, he’s probably completely miserable during the whole trip. Any enjoyment he’d get out of the zoo and aquarium might be completely overshadowed by the fact that he’s miserable for a good third of a day. Ask him if it’s worth it. If he likes zoos and aquariums, maybe it is.

I’ll tell you this…I was prone to motion sickness as a kid, and my mother knew this, but insisted that I ride around every Xmas holiday season to look at the lights, and no, I couldn’t stay home by myself. It wasn’t worth it, for me, and I still hold a mild grudge about it. So don’t force him into the car unless he really wants to go, or it’s really necessary. Chances are, he won’t thank you for it now OR when he’s an adult.

Great suggestions, I will try to find some ginger candy (gummies sounds like a good idea for a kid). I am wondering about the DVD, though. I have a player in the car, but if reading would make him sick, wouldn’t watching a video do the same thing?

Seems to me like a perfect opportunity for a placebo.

Chances are that at this point in the game, he’s so built up on the idea that “I get carsick” that at least some of the sickness is that fear feeding on itself. It may even be that he got super carsick once, and now he feels sick as an avoidance reaction- nausea is great at reprogramming our brain, especially when we are kids. Anyway, carsickness can be “grown out of” with exposure (evidence: in rural China, where people rarely are on the road, nearly every bus is covered in vomit- which doesn’t happen on similar American bus rides.) I bet if he got used to the idea of “I don’t get sick on trips” he would probably feel much ligher symtoms that he could manage.

I would give him an inert pill of some type, or maybe some Tums or something, and tell him that it is good for carsickness. Then take him on a drive and see what happens.

This. 6.02 * 10[sup]23[/sup] times this. I do not have fond memories of long car trips when I was a kid. I have memories of being bored (because I couldn’t read- I’m old, so Game Boys and DVD players weren’t an option) and nauseous for hours on end in the car. If there is a hell, it includes boredom and nausea together for long periods of time.

It might, it might not. I find that watching the movie on a plane helps me with nausea, especially when it’s the old-fashioned overhead screens instead of the seat-back screens.

This works best for me:

Cool in the vehicle with moving air.

Don’t let him get hungry.

Lots of fluids.

The Seaband things work on me, I think because the sensation is distracting.
And take him to the doctor and get a prescription for a motion sickness behind-the-ear patch. That’s a good time also to get his eyes and ears checked. I have terrible vision and am prone to balance/vertigo issues. I think they are all tied together.

I had the added joy of a dad who smoked a pipe in the car.

How big is your trunk?

At least he’s old enough to be able to recognize nausea, and to tell you about it. Make 110% sure he knows that nobody will get mad at him or punish him in any way for saying he is feeling nauseous. If he’s going to throw up in the car, you’d rather have it contained in an appropriate receptacle. If he feels he has to keep you from knowing he’s feeling nauseous, that might not happen.

He might have to swallow ginger candies one after another. That might not just be because he likes the candy. I had to do just that on a bus trip in Israel. Have lots of candies along.

Make sure he knows that the best time to do something about feeling nauseous is right when you first start to feel a little “off”. If you wait until it’s worse, in the hope that it will go away on its own, all the remedies are going to be less effective.

If you’re driving mainly in one direction sit him on the side of the car without direct sunlight. I always got sick when the car was too warm to begin with but couple that with the sun beating on you through a closed window and nausea sets in real fast.

I agree, that’s why I have not taken him anywhere that requires a long car trip. But it’s hard - he WANTS to go to HersheyPark, or the LEGO store in North Jersey, or Great Adventure, or wherever; but he dreads the drive. So we don’t go anywhere. Anything that’s more than 15 minutes away is a chore. I mean, just to drive to the closest movie theatre is 25 minutes, or to go to the mall, 30 minutes. I feel like a hermit sometimes.

Dramamine and Bonine have always worked for me. Dramamine for times when I can sleep, and Bonine for where I need to be alert when I get to wherever I’m going.

Motion sickness is a function of the senses not agreeing with each other. It’s best if the child is looking forward and not out the side of the window.

Dramamine is made for Kids - as is Bonine so that shouldn’t be a problem.

If laws permit it I would have him ride in the front seat in a booster seat so he can see out and explain to him what is causing his motion sickness and to try to look forward as much as possible.

If you have a vehicle that allows the passenger air bag to be turned off then turn it off. Otherwise move the seat all the way back so he’s not in the inflation zone of the bag. That’s good advice for anybody but more so for kids. If you can imagine a heavyweight boxer hitting you in the face as hard as he can, that is the force of an inflating air bag. It is enough force to literally tear the head off a baby.

I’ve heard that Pirin tablets work wonders.