How to Prevent Car Sickness in Toddlers

Child in car

Getting car sick is no fun at any age, but it’s especially troubling to watch a young child not feel well. Children 2-12 years old are particularly susceptible.

What causes car sickness?

Car sickness is essentially motion sickness that occurs when the brain receives conflicting signals from the motion-sensing parts of the body: the inner ears, eyes and nerves in the extremities.

For example, if your child is in the back seat and can’t see out the window, their inner ear will sense motion, but their eyes and joints may not.

If your child is prone to getting car sick, consider these steps from Nationwide Children’s Hospital to prevent and relieve discomfort:

Before you leave

  • Give your child a plain snack to eat, such as crackers
  • Avoid a large meal before travel, especially spicy, greasy or caffeinated foods and drinks
  • If possible, travel when your child is tired, so he or she can sleep during the ride

During the ride

  • If your child is in a safety or booster seat, make sure they are elevated so they can see through the windshield (read the safety rules provided by the car seat manufacturer)
  • If children are old enough, sitting in the front seat can help prevent sickness
  • Provide plenty of ventilation
  • Avoid smoking and keep strong-smelling food out of the car
  • Encourage your child to look out the window
  • Discourage them from focusing on books, games, movies or anything that involves looking down
  • Encourage activities that don’t require much visual focus, like listening to music, singing or playing verbal games
  • Have a pillow or headrest handy to avoid unnecessary head movements
  • Keep flavored lozenges on hand. The gingered-flavored variety, in particular, can help settle an upset stomach
  • Have water available to keep them hydrated

If your child gets car sick

Pull over for a short break and have your child lie on their back with their eyes closed. A cool cloth on the forehead also helps.

If symptoms persist, contact your child’s doctor about over-the-counter preventative medication.