Cruise control

Tips for combating motion sickness on your next road trip


Michelle Sussman


I was one of the lucky kids. I could read in the car for hours without feeling so much as a twinge of nausea. Not so for my husband. From the day we found out I was pregnant, he regaled me with revolting stories of the car sickness he battled in his youth.

Even today, he drives everywhere we go because riding on the passenger side causes the queasiness to return. He was sure our daughter would end up the same way. She didn't. Now 4, she hasn't shown any signs of motion sickness. She loves to read, sleep and draw in the car.

Molly Ghahtani isn't so fortunate. "I had car sickness as a kid and still do, especially if I try to read when I'm riding in a car," says Ghahtani of Bolingbrook. Her daughter, Sophie, 6, suffers the same fate.

Dr. Ken Polin of Town and Country Pediatrics in Chicago says there is a distinct possibility motion sickness is genetic and even connected to migraines. Unfortunately, the research is minimal and there is no permanent cure. But there are remedies that sometimes work. The following tips are garnered from personal experience, doctors' advice and other parents. Try one or more, administered with liberal doses of sympathy, to see whether any will work for your child.

1  Avoid the triggers. "For children who are susceptible to car sickness, avoid reading in the car and certain visually intense activities like playing video games," says Polin. These activities can contribute to discomfort.

2  Ask the doctor. A dose of an anti-motion-sickness medicine can provide up to six hours of protection from queasiness-hopefully long enough to get you to your destination. But never give your kids new medicines without first consulting your pediatrician.

3  Listen to tunes. Hearing your favorite music helps calm the nerves that contribute to motion sickness. If your family can't agree, pull out the iPods or take turns every half-hour with the radio stations.

4  Stop frequently. Getting out of the car to stretch your legs for a few minutes helps circulation, reduces fatigue and gives your kids a chance to run around. This can help their queasiness subside for a bit.

5  Keep it cool and dark. Roll down the windows or turn on the air conditioner. Moisten the suction cups and hang up those window shades; they aren't just for your baby. Staying out of the sun and keeping cool helps to calm nausea and soothes the mind. My husband says that most of his car sickness occurred after he fell asleep in the sun inside a moving car. He woke up overheated and sick.

6  Turn on a movie. Ghahtani swears by this one. Sophie feels much better when she can focus on watching a movie inside the car rather than looking at the passing scenery, which makes her sick.

7  Try pressure wristbands. Polin stresses that wristbands with pressure knobs aren't medically proven, but many pregnant moms use them during pregnancy. People use them on cruises and airplanes. Why not in the car? They are a cheap and easy solution that work for many people.

8  Read with your ears. Check out a book on tape from the library or buy one at a bookstore. Go for books the whole family can enjoy, or buy each child an individual CD or tape player with headphones.

9  Watch what you eat. Don't eat greasy foods before getting in the car; it can start the trip on an unsettled stomach. If your children are queasy before the trip begins, motion sickness is more likely to occur. In the car, try to feed them healthy snacks with protein, such as string cheese. Give them plenty of water to drink during the trip so they can stay hydrated.

10  Experiment. Preventing car sickness comes down to pure experimentation. Some children do better if they fall asleep in the car. Others do better when the windows are rolled down. The point is to keep trying different things in the hope of finding one that works.

Until you find a system that works for your child, remember two things: It's not the child's fault and keep plenty of car sickness bags handy. Those plastic grocery bags-double bag them for extra security-work great.

Michelle Sussman is a mom, wife and writer living in Bolingbrook.


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