How to Prevent Motion Sickness in Kids

We’re twenty minutes down the road when I hear the dreaded groan from the back seat. “I think I’m getting car sick!!!” Whether it comes from my 11-year-old or my 3-year-old, it’s not what I want to hear. I flip the dial to cold air, turn it up, and chug my coffee so I can pass my travel mug back to act as a puke bucket. If your kids also frequently experience motion sickness while you’re on the road, here’s my tips for preventing it (and dealing with it when it happens!).

How to Prevent Motion Sickness in Kids

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Seat Kids Strategically

We’re a family of seven driving a 7-seater minivan. I don’t have much ability to shuffle the position of my kids in the vehicle. However, where your child sits in the car can make a big difference between throwing up and not throwing up.

Try to seat kids who are more prone to motion sickness in an area of the car where they can see out the front window. My 3-year-old often gets car sick when we’re in the van for extended periods of time. On one road trip, I put her in the middle seat of the middle row (instead of behind the driver’s seat, where she usually sits) so she could see out the front window.

Car seats that boost children up a bit higher so they can see out better can also help. I prefer our Britax car seat, which has several inches of height over our Diono car seat, for this reason. If your child is in the very back of the van, these extra inches can also help them see over the seat or other kids’ sitting in front of them.

Turn the Car Seat Around

Having a minivan let me leave my youngest two children rear-facing for longer than my older kids (as our previous vehicles had less space for big car seats). However, facing the rear seat led to extra motion sickness on one road trip. After we had to stop twice to clean up the van, I turned my toddler’s car seat around so she could see out the front window. She didn’t throw up again for the rest of the trip.

Side view of the Britax Emblem convertible car seat installed in a minivan.

Avoid Books and Handheld Games

My older kids enjoy reading in the van, and we’ve often used handheld games to keep our younger kids busy on long drives. However, these can often lead to motion sickness as kids are staring at something in their laps, rather than looking out the window. My oldest recently tried crocheting in the back of the van and threw up half an hour down the road.

Instead of books, we listen to audiobooks or music together to prevent motion sickness. This lets kids look out the window while still having something to occupy their attention. Other ideas include telling jokes or riddles to each other or playing games that involve looking out the window (e.g., I-Spy or watch for out-of-province license plates).

Keep Your Cool

Keeping the vehicle slightly cool can help prevent motion sickness in kids as well. If you can, open windows (at least a crack) to keep fresh air flowing through the vehicle. Otherwise keep the air conditioning going (during the summer) or keep the temperature slightly cooler than you like. Try to point air vents towards your child so they have some air flowing gently over their face, which can help stave off nausea.

I also tell my kids to take off hats in the vehicle and, if possible, to ride without their coats in their car seats. It’s easy to tuck a coat or blanket over your child if they get cold, but harder to take off a coat if they are overheating. (Bulky coats can also be a safety hazard as they don’t allow you to properly tighten seat belts.)

Treat Motion Sickness with Homeopathy

BOIRON Cocculine Homeopathy for Travel Sickness and Nausea 30tabI keep a box of Boiron Coccunline in the diaper bag and in the van’s glove box. If one of the kids yells that they are feeling car sick, then I’ll pass back a couple Coccyntal. If we’re starting out on a longer road trip (especially down a windy road), then I’ll give the “usual suspects” a dose ahead of time.

On one road trip, my husband was driving while Pearl sat right behind me in her car seat. She wasn’t yet old enough to tell me “I feel car sick,” so I gave her some Cocculine just before we left. A couple hours down the road, she began whining a bit, so I passed her another dose and she quieted and fell asleep.

A few more hours down the road, we were approaching Revelstoke. Pearl began whining again, but my husband and I were debating whether to stop for a break there, so I ignored Pearl’s cues. She rewarded me by throwing up all over herself and the car seat and answering our debate. Lesson learned: pay attention to the cues from your kids, even if they are pre-verbal!!!

Use Essential Oils

Essential oils are another great way to prevent motion sickness in your kids (or treat it when it starts). I made a peppermint essential oil roller that I keep in my diaper bag. If one of the kids says they are feeling sick, then I can pass the roller back to them to apply the oils to their wrists or temples.

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Diffusing oils in the vehicle is also helpful. My husband is sensitive to scents, however, so I have to choose scents carefully or not do this when he’s traveling with us. If someone in your family is also sensitive to scents, its better to use the roller than a diffuser. When diffusing, I’ll put in a fresh scent such as orange or lemon.

Diffusing essential oils can also help after a motion sickness incident, because nobody wants to keep traveling in a vehicle that smells of puke.

Prepare for the Worst

Preventing motion sickness is, of course, the easiest option. When all the above ideas fail, however, and your child still tossed their lunch, then it’s a good idea to be prepared to deal with that too. As I mentioned, my husband and I often have a travel mug with us in the vehicle. Our coffee mugs have doubled as a puke bucket on more than one occasion. (3-year-old Pearl has gotten very good at throwing up into a coffee mug…)

Since it’s not always convenient to chug my coffee just to pass my mug back to a sick kid, I’ve put an old yogurt container in the van. Inside the yogurt container, I have a juice box and a small pack of antibacterial wet wipes. If a child needs to throw up, I can pass the kit back to them. They pull out the wipes and juice and hold the bucket. If they do need the bucket, they can put the lid back on it, use the wipes to clean up, and open the juice box to rinse their mouth.

How do you prevent motion sickness in your kids?

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