How to Handle Carsickness in Kids

Keep the queasiness to a minimum with these tips.

Even the most anticipated of outings can cause family-wide dread when carsickness comes into the picture. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children ages 2 to12 years old are especially susceptible. Fortunately, you can reduce the risk by following these guidelines:

Fuel up

You don’t want your children starting a long drive on an empty stomach, or it may make them feel queasy. “Just a small, light meal or even a couple of crackers will help ease nausea,” says Sally Black, a former pediatric nurse who now runs the family travel site VacationKids.com. “During the drive, ginger ale and gingersnaps can help settle an upset tummy.”

Meal plan

As for road food, resist the classic fast-food routine. “You want to avoid greasy, fatty, heavy foods like burgers and fries,” says Diane Flynn Keith, author of Carschooling, which features a chapter on carsickness. Seek out meals with healthy fruits, veggies and proteins.

Prime position

You may be tempted to seat a child near the window so they can get fresh air if they need it. “Actually it’s best to seat them in the middle whenever possible,” Black says. If you’re making the trip in a three-row minivan, “the middle [row] is best because it forces kids to face forward and look toward the horizon.” Why is this important? Because looking forward to a point on the horizon helps kids’ brains interpret motion senses that their ears and eyes are receiving. In other words, you want to match what they’re seeing with what they’re feeling.

No close-ups

If your child is prone to carsickness, ditch activities involving reading, watching DVDs or video gaming. “Any activity that involves up close eye work will only aggravate a carsickness situation,” Black says. Try reading them trivia questions or playing 20 questions.

H2O rules

Make sure there’s an abundant water supply so your crew stays hydrated. “Avoid acidic beverages such as orange juice,” Keith says. “Keep a cooler of ice and fresh water.”

Under pressure

It may sound like an old wives’ tale, but many parents have reported lots of success with bands that apply pressure to the wrist. The technique dates back to ancient forms of acupressure.

Nothing smelly

Eliminate strong odors within the vehicle to the best of your abilities. “Don’t wear perfume or heavy after-shave,” Keith says. “Try to stay away from congested areas where car-, truck- and bus-exhaust fumes are prevalent.”

Easy does it

Avoid high speeds and frequent, sudden stops and starts. Build in frequent rest breaks so your kids can get out and stretch their legs.

Over-the-counter help

Motion sickness pills may help, but check with your child’s doctor to be safe. Even after you get the doctor’s approval, “you must read the package instructions carefully before purchasing to determine if they’re age appropriate,” Keith says. “Some may not be recommended for young children. Also, they may cause drowsiness.”