Help for Kids with Motion Sickness (cars, trains, planes, and beyond)

Help for little ones whose tummies don't like car rides and airplanes.  Here are the tips and rules of of tackling and managing motion sickness.

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Some things to try:

 

Medications and devices:

- Dramamine (depending on age; check with your doctor)

Some parents warn about drowsiness and only to give 1/2 tablet

There's a kids' chewable version or Dramamine (it has been found that many children hate the taste and prefer the child dose of the adult version)

Take an hour before you hit the road

One parent crushes and mixes it into their child's milk (other possible options are pudding, yogurt, PB&J sandwiches, marshmellows, etc.)

Bonine (less drowsy version of Dramamine)

- Bonine (less drowsy version of Dramamine)

- Gravol (similar to Dramamine, but made with ginger and can be easier on the stomach)

- Antihistamines (e.g., Benadryl)

- There are homeopathic motion sickness pills as well.

- Sea Bands or Psi Bands (the accupressure wrist bands that control nausea—great for morning sickness too)

 

Car environment:

- Keep child and the car cool.

Open/crack the window and keep air circulating.

Have child chew on ice chips so they don't overheat.

Take off outer coat layers.

Try air conditioning: One parent says, "apparently my son copes better in a cool environment."

Try using an ice pack to the back of the head.

Try a cool cloth or wipes to the face.

- Open the windows in the car for fresh air, and also the sound helps them sleep.

- Shade the side windows.

- Drive when it's dark—EVEN IF kid doesn't sleep in the car, night driving can be less nauseating because of less visual stimulus.

- If you can drive while your kid sleeps, try to do that.

- Keep the car free of strong smells (perfume, air freshener, etc.)

- Tell child to ONLY look out the front, not the side windows. Better yet, if they are old enough, let them sit up front.

"I had some pretty bad motion sickness as a child, and still occasionally get it to this day. It's generally caused/exacerbated by the disconnect between how fast it feels like you're going and how fast if looks like you're going. The worst thing to do is look out the side windows. Looking out the rear or front windows is better. Reading a book or looking closely at a toy and then looking up (and out the window) really makes it bad."

- More specifically, encourage them to focus on the farthest thing they can see out the front window.

"The best thing to do is to keep your eyes on the farthest point ahead on the road. This was difficult to explain when he was younger so we’d point out things on the horizon to try to get him to look far out ahead, like, 'look at that red race car/big rig truck/helicopter/whatever! Way up ahead of us!'"

- Facing kids forward rather than backwards can be a game changer.

- Make sure the car seat is firmly in place. 

 

For the driver:

- Be prepared with Ziploc bags, paper towels, and wipes. Barf, zip, smell gone!

- Put down garbage bags and towels (and have extras of everything) to help wrap up any mess.

- The OXO Bib is said to be good at "catching" what you don't want on the carseat and floor. 

- Try to make the ride as smooth as possible.

- Don't drive too fast, especially through winding roads.

- Don't abuse the brake! When drivers make jerky stops, it can trigger motion sickness.

- Avoid heavy traffic.

 

Keep kids distracted:

- Play audiobooks: "Books on tape—fun for the whole family!"

- DVDs. One parent says of their kid, "although reading makes him sick, he can watch TV in the car." (Other people say avoid screens of all kinds.)

- Music

"Try using an iPod/mp3 music player (no screen!) with ear covering headphones. Listening to music really soothes the confused vestibular system, we started this when he was about 18 months old and it really, REALLY helps."

- Old-fashioned road trip games—I Spy, find all 50 license plates… looking outside the window can placate the belly.

"The best things we've found are to always have a window open for fresh air and to try to distract him - one of us sits in the back with him and engages with songs or toys. The last trip involved us getting through the entirety of 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, which actually worked..."

- Try to plan the drive during sleep/nap time.

 

Take breaks:

- Make frequent stops, especially when child is complaining about tongue, stomach, throat, etc.

- Take breaks, but don't unnecessarily extend the trip. If you notice they always get sick around two hours in, stop and take a break a little before you hit the two-hour mark.

 


When nausea strikes:

- Come up with a code word (or sign if they are non-verbal) to let you know they are feeling queasy.

- Look out for signs of nausea such as yawning, swallowing, sweating, and fussing.

- Have child close their eyes when feeling nauseated.

 


Food/Drink:

- Giving snacks (simple, easy-to-digest carbs like pretzels, saltines, or Pirate Booty) can help.

"We always have on hand some bland, salty crackers. The trick is to eat then very slowly. Not sure if this is because it’s a distraction, or because having a little bit in the tummy helps to settle it. Now I encourage him to do tiny mouse nibbles, but when he was younger I’d parse them out slowly in small pieces."

- Eat something plain 30 to 60 minutes before the drive. The child shouldn't be overly full or overly hungry.

- Ginger snaps or candied ginger can soothe an uneasy stomach.

- Peppermints, Altoids, and Lifesaver mints can also help, as can peppermint iced tea.

- Try hard candies, chewing gum, gummies, and lollipops (if age appropriate).

- Only feed things you’re “willing to clean up”—so no KoolAid, Red Vines, etc.

- Small amount of ginger ale before the drive.

- Cold water—again, there's something about being cool. Ice to suck on can help.

 

Foods to avoid:

- No dairy prior to ride.

- Avoid overly sweet or greasy foods.

- One parent says: "A big trigger for my daughter was fruit before a car ride—maybe it was too acidic?"

 

 

Avoid:

- No reading, no looking down—distract with other games like music, conversation, etc.

As one parent reported: "We found that any activity that had her looking down for too long like coloring or using an iPad triggered her to get sick. We sometimes attach the iPad to the headrest in front of her to watch a movie and that works ok—our pediatrician actually said that looking at something attached to the car might be helpful. But the safest bet is to just drive at night when she's likely to sleep. She's 4 now, and it has gotten a lot less frequent!"

- No videos/DVD's (although for some this works)

- Try to travel when child is sleepy, or at night, to reduce risk of feeling sick.

- Put child in the middle seat so they can see out the front window, where things are not whizzing by as fast.

- If your child is in a carseat, keep it in the middle as well.

- Encourage “whining” so you have as much notice as possible.

Avoid the car (if you can)! "My son prefers train travel as you can get up and walk around."

- When all of these things fail, BE PREPARED.

Bring plastic bags, paper towels, water, and change of clothes in case the worst does happen.

Diapers make good catchers’ mitts if all else fails.

Drape a towel underneath your child and on the floor so the mess is minimal.

 

 

Be prepared for cleaning up a mess:

- As one parent reported: "We also drape her in towels for the ride. And watch what she eats—tons of blueberries vomited all over a car interior is pretty gross!"

- Have plastic barf bags or Medical Grade Emesis bags handy.

- One parent recommends a Solo cup: "Oh, and a solo cup is MUCH easier than a bag. She now just grabs it when she feels sick and then carries on with life when she’s done puking."

- Or a yogurt container: "My big life hack for this is to use empty yogurt containers (the large ones). She asks for it, I pass it back to her, she pukes in it and hands it back and I stick the lid on. We’ve been able to use this method since she was maybe four years old."

- Bumpkins Supersized Bibs for when you start to notice signs of nausea. 

- The OXO Bib is said to be good at "catching" what you don't want on the carseat and floor.

- Keep wet wipes, paper towels, and upholstery cleaner in the car to clean up immediately after.

- Febreze!

- Have an extra set of clothes available.

- Have someone sit in the backseat with the child who can watch for signs of car sickness and be ready with a vomit bag.

 

Something to try, before you travel:

- One parent says motion sickness could be a vestibular system issue and “getting him to spin clockwise 10 times and then anti-clockwise 10 times every day would help him and then to increase it by a couple of spins every week or so,” could help.

- Check out this article from The Car Seat Lady that parents have described as super helpful.