Helping Ease Infant Carsickness
“Please help! Our one-year-old gets sick every time we drive somewhere. It started just after she turned one but before we turned her car seat around. We figured that if we turned the car seat to face forward that would solve the problem, but it hasn’t. The car seat is situated in the back seat on the passenger side, as it will not attached properly in the center of the back seat. We don’t want to ‘medicate’ her every time we go to the store, but wouldn’t mind doing that for long trips. (For treating infant carsickness can we use benadryl? — Isn’t benadryl the same as Dramamine?) We need help for our everyday running around short of buying a new car so that we can put the car seat in the center of the back seat?”
Dr. Jim’s Advice
Of course, the middle of the back seat is the safest place for a car seat, so anything you can do to put it there would be nice. Also, it can help to look out the front window from the center of the back. Dramamine is safe for treating infant carsickness in 2 year-olds and up. Benadryl is similar (but not the same) and would be safe to try. Below are some more tips on dealing with infant carsickness. If this becomes a persistent problem, an occupation therapist specializing in sensory integration might be able to help. An OT could test her vestibular system (this is where motion sickness comes from) and possibly show you some exercises to strengthen this system. To find an OT that could do this, visit American Occupational Therapy Association, Sensory Integration Special Interest Section: www.aota.org.
What is Motion Sickness, Anyway?
Motion sickness results from a conflict between the eye and ear: the inner ears detect that the car is moving, but the eyes– focused within the car– do not. The brain gets mixed signals, and nausea results. Usually your child will first complain that she feels queasy– allowing some time to fix the situation before actual vomiting starts. It is easier to prevent infant carsickness than it is to stop it once it starts.
Tips to Prevent Infant Carsickness:
- Focus on the Horizon
- Encourage your child to focus on a distant point outside the car.
- Play car games like “I Spy” that get the child to look outside.
- Bring along audiobooks or music your child can listen to while looking out the window.
- Limit activities such as reading or playing hand-held video games, where the eyes stay focused within the car.
- For toddlers in car-seats, position the seat so that the child can see outside.
- Avoid Rear Seats
- Avoid the rear-most seat in a van – kids seem to feel the van’s motion more in the rear seat.
- Facing backwards is to be avoided, too.
- Fresh Air
- A child on the verge of queasiness may feel better if the window is open.
- Also, no one should be smoking in a vehicle with kids inside!
- Also avoid strong-smelling foods or snacks.
- Settle the Stomach
- A baby fighting infant carsickness may feel better if he munches on a dry cracker.
- An empty stomach is not best for avoiding infant carsickness.
- Avoid greasy and hard-to-digest food.
- Smoother Driving
- The less braking and swaying the better.
- A suspension system in poor shape can make things worse.
- FREQUENT STOPS!
- Plan enough time on your trip to stop and let your kids get out of the car.
- Watch for Early Signs of Infant Carsickness
- Look for signs your baby is feeling sick or dizzy. Pay attention if she loses her appetite, or appears pale or sweaty.
Here are Some Additional Tips:
- Peppermints candies. Keep a supply in the car.
- Ginger snap cookies. Eat a couple before you start the trip and then periodically during the trip.
- Avoid reading in the car, particularly on winding bumpy roads. Be sure to keep eye focus mainly to front.
- Use Seabands, which are wristbands with a small round metal button that presses into the inside of each wrist. They are tight & work by acupressure. My wife swears by them!
- Place the child in the middle of the backseat so they can see out the front, rather than the sides, which can appear as a blur.
- Pick a spot as far away as you can see and just focus on that for a few minutes; not the road whizzing by.
- Breath deep through your mouth, not your nose.
- Stick your hand out the window, just a little bit; the fresh air blowing on your hand can help.
- Keep an empty large Tupperware containers in the car with a cover, so that in case of an infant carsickness accident, you can re-cover the tub until you reach a place you can empty and rinse it out.
- Keep plenty of lollipops on hand.
- A cool face cloth. The minute someone feels that urge come on, hand them a peppermint and have them place the cool face cloth on their forehead.
- An ice pack applied to the back of the neck — ten minutes on, ten minutes off — works wonders.
- Take Benadryl or Dramamine 1-1/2 hour prior to drive. Don’t wait until you are already on the road or it will be too late.
- Keep a bottle of Febreeze to get rid of infant carsickness accident odors.
- Never travel without a big tub of wet wipes!
- Keep an extra change of clothing in the car.