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How can we ease our toddler’s carsickness?
Q: My 22-month-old son gets carsick often. The doctor says he’ll outgrow it. In the meantime, how do we cope?
A: Carsickness or motion sickness is a common problem among young children. It’s most common from 3 to 12 years of age, and it can be hereditary. Many children outgrow it, but some teenagers and adults continue to experience it. Motion sickness happens when the body, inner ear and eyes experience motion in different ways and send confusing messages to the brain. This results in dizziness, nausea and sometimes vomiting. Most young children will complain, “I don’t feel good” or “I feel sick.”

Here are some tips to try to prevent carsickness:
  • Consider scheduling trips during your son’s naptime. He’s less likely to get carsick when he’s asleep.
  • Be prepared. Fill up the gas tank when your child is not in the car. Always have supplies onhand in case of vomiting: a plastic container or paper bag, a towel, water, wipes, clean clothes and a plastic bag for the dirty clothes. Leave a little extra time to get places, just in case your child gets sick.
  • Talk with your child’s doctor about medications to prevent motion sickness. Benadryl and Dramamine can reduce carsickness, but they can also cause drowsiness, making them better for longer car trips.Before the car ride, give your child a light snack. Crackers, fruit, carrot sticks or juice will do, but avoid a big meal, milk and fried foods. Take along a light snack for the ride.
  • Give your child fresh air. Roll down the car windows. Don’t smoke in the car. And avoid heavy perfume. On longer trips, try to stop occasionally to let your child get out and walk around.
  • Keep your child entertained with his favorite music or story tapes. Sing songs, tell stories and play games looking for different colored cars. Children with carsickness should not read books, as this makes motion sickness worse.

If your child vomits, stay calm and clean up as casually as possible. Try not to make him feel bad about it, and be hopeful that the next car ride will be better.

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician