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Road Trip Health: Fending Off Car Sickness

If you're planning to squeeze one last road trip out of Summer, you might want to read up on car sickness. Motion sickness is actually quite common; about one third of the population experiences symptoms in relatively mild circumstances, like being on a boat in calm water. In fact, the word nausea means seasick in Greek. Motion sickness is basically a disagreement between your eyes and your inner ear. The inner ear recognizes motion, but the eyes don't, or vice versa, jumbling the brain and nausea ensues. No fun for any passenger to endure.

For some tips for fending off car sickness,


  • Don't look down: Keeping your focus on the horizon can definitely help keep your eyes and your inner ear in agreement. If you happen to be traveling with little ones, play the "I spy" game to keep them looking up and at the horizon. Watching DVDs will increase the confusion between senses, so don't pull out movies to entertain the wee ones. Try a book on tape instead.
  • Breathe some fresh air: Roll down the windows if it is not too hot. The fresh air can be soothing. Heat makes the symptoms worse, so do run the AC if you can.
  • Food and hunger: When road tripping your should avoid spicy and greasy foods. However, hunger can make the symptoms of nausea worse. Keep a mild snack like crackers around for munching to keep the unsettled stomach at bay. Clear sodas and sparkling water can help too.
  • Drive: Take over the wheel if you are prone to motion sickness. When you drive all your senses work together avoiding the disconnect between your eyes and ears.
  • Get out of the Car: Walking on firm ground will certainly quiet the symptoms. Take stops as frequently as you can.
  • Medicine: You can try an over the counter medication, like Dramamine, or an alternative medicine treatment like the PSI Band that works the anti-nausea pressure point.

If you are prone to car sickness please share how you prevent it in the comment section below. Happy travels!


Join The Conversation
cmill38 cmill38 9 years
like glitter junkie i remember being very ill from the 30 min car ride to my grade school as a young child. so much so that my diet became restricted after having blood work and all kinds of tortue(well tortue to a kid) done at the tulane children's research hospital in new orleans. i was changed to a school closer to my home and it made all the difference. i don't get it so much now, but if i do cool air, and laying back and closing my eyes helps.
glitter-junkie glitter-junkie 9 years
I have gone up and down in my car sickness. At its worst, I would be sick when I got to school - every morning. I find the less I ride as a passenger, the worse it is. Driving is fine, I don't even feel queasy. I have to be cool, I have to be in the front seat and if the car smells, I'll probably be sick. Hills, bends and smooth driving are a disaster for me. It's been many years since I was actually sick from the car, but I get nausea and the shakes from being a passenger easily. Sleeping helps though. I don't remember being allowed to ride in the front as a kid, but I do know I was sick a lot. And that eventually I learned to control it mentally. Like, if a trip takes an hour, I could try to be calm for an hour and although I would feel bad I wouldn't vomit. It got much worse once I started driving, and wasn't a passenger so often. Now, buses are really bad: I find that if they are supposed to arrive at 5, and they are late, I will be sick at 5, because I could last until then, but any time after that gets really hard! It's wierd - it's part mental determination for me.
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 9 years
Ginger works but also anything minty or mint flavored ... in fact, I went through a period where whenever I felt nauseous, I'd swipe a bit of mentholatum under my nose or just hold the bottle under my nose and the nausea would go away. I know that sounds weird, but it works for me.
enSue enSue 9 years
I get carsick even on very short drives to the grocery store. I tend to feel worse when I'm the passenger and/or very hungry or full from eating, but I still feel ill when I'm the driver. A slightly open window helps, as well as laying down, which tended to also help my mother every time she got motion sickness (which was whenever she traveled). Dramamine helps some times, but doesn't always reduce all symptoms. And keeping my eyes on the moving surroundings sometimes makes me feel worse. Sinus/allergy problems also exacerbate the nausea. I rarely ever vomit, so I tend to feel sick for the rest of the day. I have also noticed that changes in speed, directions (a lot of turns), and elevation (going up/down hills) are sure ways to make me feel terrible.
daiseechain daiseechain 9 years
I suffer from motion sickness on long drives. It helps a lot for me to drive and if I'm not driving, then the front passenger seat is where I need to sit. I use seabands. They are 'bracelets' with a pressure point thing that pushes on the inside of your wrist. I find they really work well, although you have to put them on about an hour before you leave. Also, I take ginger tablets. As someone above said, they're cheaper and work just as well as gravol/dramamine. Also, we keep saltines and trail mix/nuts in the car to snack on... my symptoms get worse on an empty stomach, and road trip fare (fast food, coffee...) seem to make me feel even worse.
jessie jessie 9 years
thanks for the tips!!! my 9yr son gets carsick, and i have been wondering what to do for him. i'll be checking back on this article to see what others have to say.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I don't get carsick when I drive, but if it's really hot in the car and I've been riding for a while, I get restless and I sometimes get headaches. The weird thing is, reading in the car actually helps me NOT get sick, so I always bring a magazine to look at.
Faylinn Faylinn 9 years
I get car sickness and I noticed that ginger really helps. I think it works just as well as Dramamine and it's cheaper.
brilliance13 brilliance13 9 years
Driving is the only thing that 100% prevents me from motion sickness in the car. If not, I have to sit in the front seat and even then.. it depends on the driver. Some people can really make you sick with the continuous jerking stop and go driving style. I actually used to get very sick on planes as well but ever since I started traveling about 90% for work cross country every week, I don't get sick anymore on the plane! I wonder if it's some type of physical conditioning?? weird.
allinavhcnerf allinavhcnerf 9 years
thanks for this!!! i only get carsick in my mom's car for some reason
Jabbadoo Jabbadoo 9 years
Ugh... I've gotten car sick from a young age and it hasn't gotten any better. I have no problems if I drive. If I can't drive it has to be front seat with air or window down.. the back seat does me in and the only way to ride back there is to lay down. I can't read in the car, and I can't read billboards if i'm a passenger. It's also weird in that I do better in cars with leather as opposed to cloth seats... and of course better in cars with larger windshields than smaller ones. Fresh air is the key for me. When I was young and would warble from the back of the station wagon "Can you please roll the window down.." everyone knew it was time to pass the ice cream bucket back! lol Busses are a nightmare for me that I try to avoid, but if not, I try to sit right behind the driver so I can out with a driver perspective. Yoga breathing also really helps me.. I just go to another place in my head.. Forward going rides at an amusement park are fine, but round and round rides bleh. I also have BIG problems with virtual rides... the ones where you feel like you are moving but really you are just watching a screen and it feels 3D, i don't even bother with those things.. On the upside, I aways don't even need to call "shotgun" lol everyone just knows.
Lo-Lo291303 Lo-Lo291303 9 years
I never get carsick when I'm the driver, but when I'm the passenger - watch out! I HAVE to sit in the front, and usually have the windows rolled down. If I know I'm going to be a passenger for a long time, I'll pop half a Gravol (which I guess is the Canadian equivalent of Dramamine). I'm going on a group trip to Israel in a few days, and I'm uber nervous about the constant bus rides.
indieglam indieglam 9 years
Reading in the car... the surest way for me to feel carsick!
kedawen kedawen 9 years
As I've gotten older, my carsickness has gotten worse. Used to be on a long car trip my sisters and I could all read, or watch movies, or whatever. But now, riding in the car or in a plane, I can't survive without Dramamine (it works wonders with rollercoasters too, hehe). I used to go to Hell's Canyon in Oregon and the curvy roads up there were brutal if I forgot to take medicine. Closing my eyes and laying back a little always seemed to help. I've never thrown up from it, but I avoid doing that like the plague. Being in the front seat as opposed to the back is essential for me as well.
TrnSmleShiftRpt TrnSmleShiftRpt 9 years
My issue is I never vomit, so I continue to be car sick all the time. Laying down or putting my chair to be in a more laying down position seems to help me for some reason.
bengalspice bengalspice 9 years
I have noticed that I feel better when I'm the one driving.
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
I'm much better when I drive. Being a passenger I almost always get yucky feeling. We're going to be travelling a lot in Aug (10 hrs on a plane, 25 hours in the car) so I might just print this out!!
katyharper katyharper 9 years
I get carsick when I ride in the car. I find it's worse if it's a sunny day and we're driving through shadows of trees. That seems weird, but it has a strobe-light effect on me, and makes me want to vom. And honestly, I haven't really found anything that helps. :(
zabrow zabrow 9 years
i'm driving to vegas in a couple of weeks with a friend & totally forgot that she gets carsick. not sure how that's going to work out on the four hour drive there... i'll have to relay some of these tips!
julieulie julieulie 9 years
I agree, driving is just as bad -- I've had to pull over while driving to vomit. I loathe driving because I am so prone to carsickness while at the wheel. I dread when my husband makes me move out of the city into the suburbs and I have to get a car and face driving on a regular basis.
TrnSmleShiftRpt TrnSmleShiftRpt 9 years
I am afraid to break it to you, but I sometimes get carsick while driving, so that will not help me. The only thing that helps me is Dramamine. It's my wonder drug.
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