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How to help kids with motion sickness on a car trip

What are some ways that parents can help children who get carsick?

Motion sickness occurs when the eyes realize the body isn’t moving itself, but the inner ear detects motion due to the movement of the car. That conflicting information manifests in the form of nausea and/or vomiting, says Dr. James Cavanagh, director of pediatrics for St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.

He suggests the following:

n If the child is old enough, have him sit in the front seat and look straight ahead. “By picking a vantage point that’s far away, it matches what your ears are feeling,” Cavanagh says.

n Avoid reading or watching movies, which entail focusing on immobile objects and can worsen symptoms in some people. Also avoid looking down.

n In the back seat, have the child sit in the middle so she can look out the windshield. Looking out a side window isn’t helpful; sometimes closing eyes can help.

n Practice distraction — sing together, for instance. If watching a movie doesn’t worsen symptoms, try that.

n Take frequent breaks to allow the child to get out of the car. If necessary, stop the car and let the child lie on a back seat. A cool cloth on the forehead may help, he says.

n Some studies have shown eating a small meal before the drive — nothing greasy — can be beneficial. Crackers may also help.

n Natural helpers include consuming ginger and wearing acupressure wristbands.

n Medication is a last resort, Cavanagh says. Kids can take Benadryl or Dramamine, depending on their ages. Talk to the child’s health care provider before using any medication, Cavanagh says. “These medications have a lot of side effects. They can make you very sleepy. They can make your mouth really dry,” Cavanagh says.


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