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10 Tips to Avoid Car Sickness

Is there anything worse than a sick child? The mess, the smell, and the fact that your little one is suffering - now take all of that on the road! Motion sickness affects about a third of the population and occurs when there is an imbalance in the inner ear, caused by the repetitive motion of the car. Symptoms can include dizziness, headaches and, of course, vomiting. All prepared parents would be wise to carry a sickness kit in the car, which should include garbage bags, tissues, wet wipes, mints (if your child is old enough), hand sanitizer, spare clothes, and a hand towel. 

Trying to drive whilst a child is sick in the car can be very challenging. Even if another adult is present to deal with the sick child’s immediate needs, it still diverts the driver’s attention and can be potentially dangerous. In fact, a study by Monash University found that tending to unruly or unwell children can be 12 times more of a distraction than talking on a cell phone.

Doctors don’t yet understand why some people are affected by motion sickness and some are not, so if you or your children are in the unlucky 30 per cent that do find car journeys stomach churning, take action before your next road trip.

Prevention is always better than a cure. Read on to see 10 tips to stop motion sickness for your child before it starts:

1. Take in the sights. Encourage children to look out of the window during car rides - this helps to realign the balance in the inner ear, and prevent the sensory misalignments that lead to nausea. It’s easy to make a game out of this distraction by asking children to count other cars, find landmarks, or simply play a game of “I Spy.”

2. Have a bite to eat. Chewing can help to relieve carsickness symptoms. Offer older children gum to try, and offer younger children water and snacks, keeping the options plain without strong flavors or smells. Some good choices are a granola bar, crackers, or fruit.

3. Get some fresh air. Open a car window and encourage your child to breathe deeply; this helps them to calm down, distracts them, and freshens up the car, all at the same time.

4. Ditch the electronics. Staring down into your lap to play a video game or watching a show whilst zooming along in the car is a surefire way for your child to feel queasy, and reading is a really bad idea, too! Find a different way to occupy their time while traveling.

5. Prepare. Give your child a small snack before setting out; good food choices are anything plain that will line the stomach and keep blood sugar levels stable. Timing your road trip to include times when your child is more naturally inclined to be sleepy and ready for a nap is also an excellent strategy to avoid carsickness.

6. Distractions. Like many problems involving children, sometimes they can be resolved simply through distraction: Try having a joke-telling competition, play a story on CD, or stage a family sing-a-long.

7. Ginger. Many people swear by the all-natural power of ginger for preventing sickness. You can try ginger pastilles or hard candy (if age-appropriate).

8. Acupressure bands. Although without scientific evidence, lots of people swear by these wristbands, which claim to apply pressure to specific acupressure points thought to relieve nausea. They can’t do any harm, so they may be worth a try!

9. Take a break. Sometimes the best thing to do is to stop the car and have a walk around or perhaps even a lie-down once everyone is feeling better and the car is cleaned up.

10. Prescription drugs. If you have tried and exhausted other methods and nausea is still putting
a dampener on you and your child’s vacation, it may
be time to visit your doctor and ask for medication. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) is approved for kids two and older, and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) can be used for older kids.

It’s not all bad news, though. An article in Scientific American hypothesizes that the reason we may suffer from motion sickness could be an attempt by the
body to protect us from potential poisoning, which would produce many of the same sensory symptoms as carsickness. This brings to mind similar theories, which postulate that morning sickness could be a safeguard against spoiled food harming the developing fetus. (Neither theory helps much when you are elbow deep in puke, though!)

Taking road trips as a family is beneficial in so many ways. They are an educational, fun, and bonding experience so don’t let motion sickness ruin your car travel plans. Take some preemptive action and hit the road!

If your children tend to suffer from motion sickness - even with a slew of remedies at your disposal - you probably want to keep the driving to a minimum. Check out these fabulous and fun daytrips that shouldn’t take longer than about an hour’s car drive from the city centre of Calgary:

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump - Did you know stampeding Buffalos can reach speeds of 50 kilometres per hour? Find out more by visiting this designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and find out just how this area has been used by aboriginal peoples of the plains for more than 5,500 years. For more information, visit

Banff National Park - One of the world’s best vacation spots and Canada’s first national park, family fun can be found in an endless selection of activities centering around the natural majesty of glaciers, mountains, rivers, and forests. Celebrate Canada 150 with Parks Canada! The Parks Canada Discovery Pass provides free admission for the entire year to Parks Canada places. For more information and to get your free pass for 2017, visit

The Vulcan Tourism & Trek Station - Star Trek fans will be in heaven in the town of Vulcan. Your little members of star fleet can have their photo taken on a replica of the Captain’s chair and get close to a Vulcan starship! Crew members are happy to answer questions about the town and its famous namesake characters. 

Fiona Tapp, M.Ed., is a freelance writer and educator. She is an expert in the field of Pedagogy, a teacher of 13 years, and holds a Master’s in Education. She enjoys thunderstorms and making playdough cars with her toddler. You can reach her at, on her blog,, or connect via Facebook,, and Twitter @fionatappdotcom.



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