Car Sickness

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!


R. Deloncre on July 11th, 2014:
Prevent motion sickness in moving vehicle with Viban Eyewear.
It works!
Bestestfriend on February 17, 2015:
My friend and I like to go on short 1-3 hour road trips every other month and she usually drives. Recently, her car (and only her car) has made me so car sick on our last two adventures. Not sure why but it's getting pretty crazy! Why just her car? And why now? I didn't have a problem with her car before!
Gemma on February 20, 2015:
Hey, Bestestfriend, have you thought that your carsickness might be due to smells or odours? Has your friend got a new air freshener, or had the aircon flushed out with chemicals, or some work done on her car recently? New car mats or seat covers? Sensitivity to a smell - especially something chemical - might account for your sickness coming on all of a sudden.
Linda on September 28, 2015:
I have discovered an unusual remedy for my motion sickness. Previously I suffered motion sickness for up to two days after a car ride. Now, when I have motion sickness I go to the swimming pool and float for 20 - 30 minutes. I use a pool noodle under my neck to keep water out of my ears. The result is no less than amazing. I now use my "float therapy" nearly every day. It won't prevent motion sickness but it is a wonderful and effective treatment!
Rosie on April 26, 2016:
As for me, I usually only have problems with small vehicles. Just earlier, my head ached so much I just wanted to get out. I doubt it's the smell because when the car stops for a while, the headache stops as well.(
Chloe on June 30, 2016:
Any ideas on why I am now getting very bad car sickness when I am driving my own car? No work done on the car or anything else different. It is becoming embarrassing as I drive often on the m4 with colleagues and have to pull over. I've never felt so sick. Has been happening in last 2 months.
on November 12, 2016:
I still don't know what to do. It is getting worse as I get older.
Lorraine Webley on January 25, 2017:
I am 47 and only get car sickness in the passenger seat. I have had this for two years now and have never suffered from it before. My symptoms are just nausea and vomiting. Why now all of a sudden now?
Betty on May 26, 2017:
I tend to get car sickness quite often. I make sure I have something light to eat before and a snack available in the car. I also wear the sea bands on my wrists. You can buy these very reasonably at any drug store.
Shell Ray on July 14, 2017:
I have suffered off and on with car sickness since I was a child. Yes, smells seem to set it off or intensify it. I recently got sick while driving that is very usual. I was driving a rental car. I noticed if the car is a very smooth ride it causes me to be sick. I don't know what my point is exactly except to say I sympathize. Things to never do... Watch a train go by, get your ears wet, turn your head to talk to someone in the back seat, turn into a parking spot too quickly, be a passenger on a mountain road, sleep in car, listen to head phones in car, read in car, ride with anyone who has on strong perfume or cologne or smokes a cigar in the car etc...
Euphronic girl on January 20, 2018:
I am also a victim of car sickness. As am not so much sensitive to bus or air travelling, I just find it so difficult to travel through a high range, which having lots of curves and hill tops. The smell also plays a role in my case. The twist and turns cause my stomach to indigest the food even after few hours. Sometimes a saliva technique helps me better. Whenever I feel the vomiting tendency I noticed that my saliva produces much faster, although I encourage it to come out and concentrate into it for a while. It works sometimes but not while we are in a hilly area. A ginger candy after every meal is another option of mine which will induce digestion faster. After every meal I would take rest for a while before travel or otherwise will walk in the surroundings. I always avoid dairy products like milk and ice cream, butter etc. that makes me uncontrollable to vomit. These are my stories of car sickness...
Alisoni on March 1, 2019:
Why do vehicles with tinted windows make me extremely carsick? Does anyone else have this problem? As soon as I get out of the vehicle symptoms stop. I know it's the tint as 5 years ago a company vehicle provided was causing extreme motion sickness and after the tint was removed I had no symptoms. Today I had to remove myself from a friend's vehicle after 5 minutes due to nausea. The owner verified that it had tinted windows. I can't be the only person who suffers from this! Suggestions please? Thanks
Car magnets lover on March 7, 2019:
Great article!
Tarnia on May 12, 2019:
Hello, can anyone help? I sit in the front of the car, but still get very car sick. I tend to only sometimes feel really sick and I get moments where I need to get out of the car and vomit. I have tried the sick bands but they don't seem to work for me. I have also tried joyriders and kwells sickness tablets, but they make me really sleepy so tend not to use them. Is there any other form of medication that is better and if so where can I buy it from?
Misacc on May 5, 2021:
I remember one trip I threw up soooo much like my brother has a stain on his backpack from me throwing up on it. I also remember when in the car on another trip my grandma put on this AWFUL smelling chapstick in the car with me and my mom and now we always say you better not put on that grape chapstick lol
Jo on May 5, 2021:
Tarnia, have you tried Dramamine?
Jo on May 5, 2021:
Also you may have not put the sickness bands on in the right place on your wrist.
Christine Lucas on September 7, 2021:
My girls are 14 and 16, and have been getting carsick since they were babies. They just throw up nonstop whenever we take a road trip. I've tried everything, can anyone help?
Zy on January 19, 2022:
I usually bow my head the entire trip (as if sleeping) either with a bag to place my head or just my arms. I know it's quite annoying bcs road is just bumpy and enertia keeps you moving but I have to do it by strength haha. Unfortunately, as much as I like to see wonderful places during the trip but I rather not vomit it's just awful and embarrassing even the trip is 5 hrs and my neck aches lol.

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