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

How is his vision? I have a theory that my childhood motion sickness was exacerbated by the difference between my corrected vision with glasses and my very poor peripheral vision. I never was able to read in a car until I had Lasik. If he wears a strong prescription, try encouraging him to look straight ahead and turn his head when he wants to see something to the side. This is untested but I think it is plausible.

Looking straight sideways can help. It’s best not to look at objects close to the car because the visual motion of it is the problem.

I frequently became motion-sick in the car as a kid (though I don’t think I had it as bad as the OP’s son). I still get it occasionally, mostly in cabs (where the drivers tend go hard on the accelerator, and hard on the brake) and the L (same problem).

Those things that helped me have already been mentioned by others:

  • Sitting in the front seat
  • Cool air / a breeze on my face
  • Looking out the window, rather than trying to read, or concentrate on anything within the car – that was hard for me as a kid, because I loved to read, and it would have been a great way to pass time on long car trips, but it was seriously barf-inducing

In addition to the sitting in the front seat, be sure he is sitting high enough to see out of the windows. If all he can see if the dashboard, than the front seat isn’t going to help.

I get carsick some times, and what I’ve found it -
yes to the front seat
yes to cool air flow
yes to water
yes to ginger
no to chocolate - M&Ms are a bad idea for me
yes to a light meal before hand (toast instead of pancakes and sausage kind of thing)
no to strong smells
no reading, no DVDs, no map reading
yes to watching out the window - if you are going to be out in the country, have him focus on stuff that is a ways away from the car, not right at the roadside. A windmill on the horizon moves by much more slowly than a speed limit sign.

I would get sick looking out the side windows at the stuff going by so fast. (Another poster just above mentioned the same thing.) I did better in the front seat where I could focus on stuff far away. I suppose it helped that those were the days of no seat belts and as a 4-year-old I could stand up in the front and center spot.

I concur with the poster above about the anxiety of getting car sick may be contributing to it. I like the placebo idea - give him a Tums or a little blue Altoid or something and tell him it’s for his sickness. Act like it will work wonders, and get him in the car, preferably in the front seat. Drive away like everything is dandy, and just see how it works.

You acting like it’s a big deal (which I totally understand) may be feeding his concern, which makes him feel weirder, which makes him think about carsickness and on and on. It’s a trick, but it’s for a good cause, and your kid will be happier if he can make it to the LEGO store this time.

The problem with this is that if it doesn’t work, now you’ve planted the idea that carsickness cures don’t work.

Not necessarily – you could just act like that particular remedy didn’t work.
Is there a way a mechanic could disable the airbag?

Middlebro’s car-sickness was greatly helped by getting the dental work he needed (his upper palate was too narrow) - but what ended it completely was finally regurgitating that 3x2 lego piece he had swallowed at age 3.

I made my mother apologize for having called me a liar when I’d gone to get help after he swallowed it and for the 8 years I spent in charge of the vomit bags :mad:

Maybe I’m being whooshed here, but are you telling me that your brother had a piece of Lego in his stomach for 8 YEARS?!?! That’s pretty incredible, I wouldn’t have thought them to be quite so sturdy.

Did you look at it? In what shape was it - could you theoretically still have used it?

If you don’t want him to ride in the front, maybe window shades on the back passenger windows would help? This is an uneducated suggestion, but I think blocking him from seeing his surroundings whiz past might help.

Well, strictly speaking it was Tente (a local brand), but yes. It was digested enough to be unusable: it still kept its general shape but the edges weren’t straight any more, although you could still read the TENTE lettering on each knob. It was more clear on one of the center knobs.

And you bet I looked at it, how else would I have been able to show it to The Parental Units demanding their abject submission and recognition of the error of their ways? For one time in my life that I could do that!

Middlebro kept the brick around in a “treasures box” and eventually threw it out when he was in High School.

I was a car sick kid.

Loads of good advice here.

Another one I might have missed or didn’t see is keep the smells down.

I sat next to my 9000 year old grandmother in the backseat of their bonneville and her Olde Lady Perfume and too full of a stomach from a chinese restaurant and motion sickness was Puke City for me.

No one gave me credit for barfing on the floor mat and missing the back of the seat. I was quite proud of that feat. ( and I got sent to bed when we got home because of it and I felt FINE. Sheesh. All because I puked in grandpa’s car.)
Ironically, I have no issue with carsickness today.

My parents seem to love “greasy spoon” type restaurants when we’re traveling. The strong smells in those places made my carsickness worse. Food right before or during a trip for someone who tends to get carsick should be the kind of thing you’d eat if you had a bit of nausea. Bland, sweet, and/or starchy are what you want. You don’t want fatty or fried food, or anything with a really strong flavor or smell. This might mean it’s a better idea for you to pack a lunch rather than go to a fast-food restaurant along the road.

Tell him that, if he starts feeling nauseous, it might help to close his eyes. Relativity to the rescue- if you can’t see the landscape moving by, you can’t tell you’re moving, unless there’s acceleration. A pillow for him might help, too, by cushioning him from some of the bumps in the road.


I agree with all these posts, but I didn’t see anyone mention a booster seat for the back seat. It’ll help him see out of the window better, and increased field of vision helps a lot with car sickness. It’s the reason people get seasick easily but most can handle cars…on a boat, you’re often inside or on the ocean with nothing noticeably moving.

He is already in a booster seat, whether he sits in the front or back. It keeps the seatbelt from hitting him in the face :slight_smile:

I am going to look for the Bromine for Kids, as suggested above (the drug store I went to last night only had it for adults). I’m also going to try some of these suggestions on a shorter trip (an hour) to see which ones work for him; if we can find the right combo, hopefully the results will extend to longer excursions.

I also think it’s partly boredom; when he’s got nothing to do for extended periods, he is not looking forward at the road and starts to feel the effects of the movement. It seems to help if we keep him occupied (find license plates, “I Spy”, etc.). Then he’s paying attention to the game and not to being sick. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep that up for hours on end.

Planes are different. I would not dare to watch a DVD in a car myself. Just, nonononono. And I’m not even terribly prone to motion sickness, just have occasional problems.

I second the advice about driving smooooothly. I second the advice about the ginger, lollipops, sips of water, etc. The also make an anti-emetic medication that you can buy over the counter that’s essentially just sugar syrup (dextrose, IIRC). I’ve never tried to use it with motion sickness, but it helped with lingering symptoms of a nasty stomach bug I had a month or two ago.

Also – cool moving air: very good. (Likewise sitting in the middle of the back seat for a better view.) Hot moving air: no thank you.

My question is whether you have done all of your driving in the same car? We had a car (Buick) when I was a kid and it made my brother and I very carsick. No other car did it and not a single one since then. There was a smell that I can still recall in my mind that I associate with that car.

So I definitely recommend opening windows and keeping the car as cool as possible being the two biggest helps. (Airline pilots often drop the cabin temperature during turbulance to keep the sickness under control. I don’t know if this is standard practice or just coincidence for the two times they mentioned it over the intercom.) Also keeping sitting up and not slouching helps too- keeps your ears and eyes level with the motion.

I realize you want to address the issue in the big picture, but for the upcoming trip I wonder if he would have an easier time on the train? It is far smoother, and you can get up and move around. Mass Transit in DC connects up to Union station.