Car sickness is perhaps the most common form of motion sickness. Even people who are generally fine while traveling find it difficult to read in a moving car, and many have problems if they have to travel in the rear seats.
Car sickness can be a particularly big problem for children, especially toddlers and those under around 6 years old. The good news is that many of them will grow out of the problem, but it can be very distressing while it lasts. Sitting in the front seat, where the ride is smoother and the view forwards is unobstructed, can be a big help (but note child restraint and seatbelt laws).
Interestingly, the car driver almost never gets motion sick, even on the worst switchback roads. So there's a solution for any adult with a driving license - insist on doing the driving!
It thus makes sense then that passengers can benefit from imitating the driver's behavior. Sit straight, keep alert, watch the road and concentrate on what's coming up ahead. Don't turn your head to speak to someone beside or - worse - behind you. Try to anticipate the movements of the car and the route you're going to take. If the route is an unfamiliar one, then taking a look at a map before you leave can help you to visualize where you are going and anticipate each stage of a trip.
Sitting facing forwards
is crucial for anyone prone to motion sickness, and the front of the car is a great deal better than the back. However, if it is
necessary to sit in the back, then sit in the middle seat where you'll have a view forwards through the windshield, rather than sideways through the windows. In addition to watching the road, it can help to fix your eyes on the horizon, or a distant point.
Regarding looking out through the windshield, if there are toys, lucky charms or air fresheners dangling from the mirror, ask the driver to remove them. Anything swinging around within your line of vision is going to make you feel extra queasy!
Ask the driver to drive nice and steady
and reasonably slowly, to avoid abrupt breaking and acceleration, and to take curves gently. In a manual vehicle he or she should also be encouraged to change gears smoothly, so as not to jerk the vehicle.
Fresh air and good ventilation
is really important for everyone in the car, but especially for those in the back. If you're a fan of essential oils for relaxation, a little ginger or peppermint oil
can be dispersed around the car by putting a drop or two on a tissue and placing it on or near an air or heat vent.
Seatbelts need to be comfortable and well adjusted so that they are not too tight across the chest. Seatbelts often chafe at the neck of more petit passengers and children, so take along a soft scarf or cloth to wear around the neck, or wrap around the belt. Children may prefer a small pillow or familiar blanket. A lavender or herb-filled pillow can be very comforting for all ages.
Take regular breaks
- as often as every 15-30 minutes if necessary. During stops, make sure you get out of the car and walk around. Doing some basic stretches and taking deep breaths can also help, but be careful if your stop is at a gas or service station as any smells or fumes are likely to make the sickness worse.
Try not to travel on an empty stomach or just after a big meal.
Most people can best tolerate motion with a little food in their stomachs. Do take a bottle of water and some snacks with you, as nibbling on something such as dry crackers and taking regular sips from your bottle will help a lot (see Preventing Motion Sickness: Basic "Dos and Don'ts"
for more suggestions). The action of chewing can also give great relief - obviously gum is good for this if it is something you like.
If you are at all prone to car sickness don't attempt to read in the car! This also applies to any other activity that involves your head being down and your eyes engaged on something detailed. Texting or using electronic games are also guaranteed to make motion sickness worse. While in-car DVD players are great for keeping children quiet and occupied during a journey, not all children can cope with them. Instead, play some calming music (no heavy beats!) on the car stereo, or engage children with a story CD. Anything that keeps your mind busy will help prevent or minimize motion sickness.
To keep children looking outside the car and engaged with what's coming up ahead, play a game of "I Spy", or have a contest to see who can spot the most trucks, farm animals, cars of a certain color etc.
If none of this works, try closing your eyes and relaxing back into your seat. Some people find that this brings relief, however for others it simply makes the sickness worse.
Motion sickness sufferers often find traveling at night to be particularly difficult as there are fewer visual points, and the 'rush' of head lights and street lights can be disorientating. Looking in the direction of travel and following the road as it appears in the headlights may help to some extent.
The type and model of car or vehicle can make a big difference to how you feel. The 'ride' of an unfamiliar vehicle will often trigger sickness even in those who usually have few problems with car travel. The onset can be rapid - with queasy feelings starting just a few minutes into a trip. I still remember an agonizing trip in a friend's Citroen 2CV - the suspension felt like it was on springs and the way the car bounced around corners rapidly gave me terrible motion sickness.
Low cars with slanting or curved windows can also be a problem for those not used to them. Try closing your eyes, using window shades or wearing sunglasses to minimize the unfamiliar visual messages.
Fitting an antistatic ground strap
to the body of your vehicle may also be worth trying. Primarily designed to stop you getting electrostatic shocks from your vehicle, these straps seem to help a lot of people travel without motion sickness. Again it is one of these things that some people dismiss as worthless, while others swear by it. Your call!