How to help a carsick 2-year-old?
June 14, 2010 8:45 PM   Subscribe

How to help a carsick 2-year-old?

Our just-turned-2-year-old suffers from motion sickness on car trips. She pretty much invariably vomits when we are about 20-30 minutes into the "country roads" portion of the trip to her grandparents' house. She is usually fine on a highway. We have a total of about 50 minutes on those types of roads to make the trip.

We've tried timing the trip for her naptime or traveling at night while she sleeps, but each time she's been woken up at just the wrong time, as we're getting off the highway and onto the country roads, by things we haven't been able to control (once we needed to adjust the bike rack, another time it was a construction-related stop in traffic).

The first couple of times this happened, we stopped to clean her up thoroughly and change her clothes, but she just vomited again when we started going again, so the last couple times we've opened windows and pushed through to the destination for an immediate bath. At least she's only vomited once on the latest trips.

The poor child is just so miserable; the look on her face, the greenness, just awful. And then, less importantly, it's a drag to have to clean the car seat and everything associated with it.

Any suggestions? We've thought of taking breaks every 15 minutes, but my own experience with carsickness as a child was that it would start up again at the same intensity immediately, and prolonging the trip was a net minus. I've heard both that some kind of movie-watching setup can make it worse, and also that it can make it better; as of now, I just try to call her attention to things out the front window, but obviously I'm not having a lot of success here.
posted by palliser to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Supposedly ginger helps with motion sickness. Candied ginger is available at some health-food type groceries like Trader Joes. Now, the only challenge would be getting her to EAT it. Hmmm... On second thought, ask your pediatrician.

Or... I am not a doctor but I'm wondering if you gave her some childrens' night-time cold medicine if she would sleep through the ride. Again, ask your pediatrician.
posted by ticketmaster10 at 8:52 PM on June 14, 2010

Have you tried those acupressure wristbands? They work for me for motion sickness on boats, and they are drug-free.
posted by ambrosia at 8:52 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Here's a link to the wristbands ambrosia is talking about.
posted by gnutron at 8:54 PM on June 14, 2010

1. Is s/he tall enough to see out the windows to the horizon? That invariably helps.

2. IANAD, but this Dr. says Dramamine is safe for kids.

3. a motion sickness bracelet perhaps?

4. More advice.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:55 PM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: Can your car safely accommodate her carseat in the middle back seat? As someone prone to motion sickness, being able to see out the front windshield is the only way I can handle sitting in back.
posted by jamaro at 8:59 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sister used to get carsick, and I think the main two things my parents did were make her look out the window, and have snacks. It sounds unhelpful, but they would have almonds or dry cereal (sugary kiddy stuff like Fruit Loops) that she could chew on.
posted by jacalata at 8:59 PM on June 14, 2010

Anything here or here help?

As a kid, I remember liking lots of water and flat ginger ale, avoiding reading, and not sitting in the back seat as soon as I was old enough. I also had a great time playing I-Spy & counting games to keep me looking outside.
posted by SarahbytheSea at 9:00 PM on June 14, 2010

My dog gets mad carsick. I give him Bonine/meclizine. It's people medicine, at the drug store, next to the dramamine.

He got mad sick before we started giving it to him. Vomiting consistently once we'd gone about twenty to thirty minutes.

Talk to your doctor to get your dosing right. But the neat thing about meclizine is that, in proper doses, it has basically no discernible side-effects (for humans, not just for dogs). And, I'm repeating this, get the dose from your doctor and ask her opinion before you do this... 'cause I'm obviously not a doctor.
posted by Netzapper at 9:00 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

And snacks! But then I was also a generally-gets-crabby-when-hungry kid so I was pretty well fed :)
posted by SarahbytheSea at 9:01 PM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: I was this child. For what it's worth, it got better as I got older. Figure out a list of 'risk factors' that make things worse/better. For me, the higher my 'score', the more the likelihood of motion sickness. There's no other way than by trial and error, I'm afraid. That will help you figure out how to mitigate things.

My personal list of things that make it worse: empty stomach, hot or stuffy, tired (think about this in terms of trying to wait until she's tired to drive), movie or book or picture watching, anything sweet, especially apple, bumpy or curvy roads, rapid accel or decceleration.

My personal list of things that make it better: constant blood sugar, sour, salty or starchy foods, anything ginger, singing or listening to music, looking far out the horizon, more air and cooler.

Ginger is known for its anti nausea properties. I eat candied ginger, or drink ginger ale with diced fresh ginger in it.

I would consider stopping every 15 mins. and walk around the car twice and get back in. That might help. Also, for me, by the time I was 4 (I don't remember earlier), I remember just telling my dad to stop the car. I'd get out, throw up without messing myself up, get back in the car have a drink of water and we'd drive on until the next bout. Generally I was better off if I was car sick just to empty out and move forward.

Also, make sure your child doesn't feel bad or guilty for being sick and not feel like she did anything wrong. I would recommend actually praising her on how well she's doing particularly if she manages to tell you in time before hand. Downplay it. No big deal. This will take the pressure off of her about it which can make it worse.

As for clean up, as a parent, I like to spread out a towel for an at risk kid because it's easier to catch the mess (and it's a drag when it gets into the carseat... ugh). Carry grocery bags to use as garbage bags, a roll of paper towel, wet wipes, a water bottle, and some febreeze never hurt).
posted by kch at 9:08 PM on June 14, 2010

Eating always made it worse when I was a kid! I had car sickness until I was about twelve, I think. Then my sister had it. A terrible affliction. I found that opening the window helped; moving around, reading, (or, I suppose, looking at a TV screen, which I'm glad we didn't have in the 90's) did not. Would you consider having her sit with you in front? I always found that I was only carsick when I was made to sit in the back with nothing to look at but the back of a headrest (especially if she can't reach the window yet).
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 9:13 PM on June 14, 2010

I've heard of people giving their kids Benadryl and letting them sleep right through the entire trip.
posted by choochoo at 9:19 PM on June 14, 2010

Best answer: ginger, ginger, ginger. I didn't discover its magical anti-nausea properties until well into my 20s and I would have killed for it on long car rides as a kid. however you can get it into her, please do so. try to find real ginger ale; supermarket stuff is usually totally devoid of any real ginger. good luck and I truly hope you find a solution that makes her comfortable.
posted by killy willy at 9:25 PM on June 14, 2010

My dad was kind of a jerk-y driver, in the sense that the car would sort of lurch on every turn instead of going through the turns smoothly. This greatly contributed to my car sickness, especially since any jerkiness in your driving on a curvy road is going to be magnified in the back seat (and make things that much worse!). Maybe the one of you who isn't driving could sit in the back seat the next time you go to see if that could be part of what's causing it?

Also, fresh cool air always helped me, and anything like reading was just asking for trouble.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 9:33 PM on June 14, 2010

Have you tried those acupressure wristbands? They work for me for motion sickness on boats, and they are drug-free.

Acupressure is pure pseudoscientific bullshit. Do not spend money on snake oil.
posted by signalnine at 9:42 PM on June 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can you do something to help her keep her head still? When I was a kid with this problem, inevitably I would realize my nausea only too late, and moving my head around only made it worse (acceleration and deceleration was usually okay, it was the long side-to-side motions of the curvy roads that bothered me the most).

I'm sorry she has to go through this, at 2 years old, she probably doesn't really know what's happening or what to do about it. Can one of you sit in the back with her to point out the horizon to look at? When I was a kid, sitting in the front seat didn't always help, because I would focus on the curves ahead and not the bigger view.
posted by sarahnade at 9:44 PM on June 14, 2010

I used to get really car sick when I was 4 or 5. Only thing that ever helped me was singing to take my mind off the nausea.

(Billy Joel's Greatest Hits and Fleetwood Mac Rumors, since you ask.)
posted by Jofus at 10:46 PM on June 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

My daughter use to feel car sick on long road trips. It was just me and her in the car, but due to the front passenger air bag, moving her to the front seat wasn't an option. Instead, I removed the front passenger head rest to give her a clear view through the windshield and hung a towel inside the side window to reduce the motion in her peripheral vision.
posted by kbar1 at 11:13 PM on June 14, 2010

When my brother was a small kid he used to turn into a spew fountain whenever we went on long road journeys - normally on a portion down the smaller roads.

My parents decided that the problem was the smaller roads mixed with being able to see the tops of the trees in the side windows.

They bought him a bigger booster-seat so that he could see actual landscapes and the spewing suddenly stopped.
posted by twine42 at 1:27 AM on June 15, 2010

Bonine worked for both our kids, without the groggy side effects of Dramamine. We would crush 1/2 or 1/4 quarter of a pill and hide in a spoon of pudding to get them to take it. Talk to your doctor about the proper dose.
posted by COD at 5:17 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: From Ms. Vegetable:

Oh, your poor little girl. :-( This was me. Still is me, sometimes, in fact (and I'm now 26). Things that have helped: being COLD, having an empty stomach, sleeping (drug induced or not), soda, not having to talk to anybody or think, looking out the front (NOT side) window, sitting in the front when I was old enough (this is actually the one that still gets me if I have to sit in the back), and cruise control. I can now tell if the driver is not using cruise control, and it makes a world of difference.

When I got older, I could usually tell the difference between "oh, I might vomit, let's get there soon", and "oh, I have to vomit, I know it's going to happen, crap". If the latter, get it over with as soon as possible - turn on the heater, swallow anything, try to talk and think. Tends to be (for me at least) that once that first episode is over, it's smooth riding.

Also, a barf bucket. I have awesome aim. So does my niece - and I'm so proud. When your daughter's older, this helps some (not nearly all) of the embarrassment, and immensely with cleanup.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 5:31 AM on June 15, 2010

Our nearly-2 year old is just the same. We combat it by keeping the car FREEZING, and one of us sitting beside her the whole time singing with her and keeping her attention. We don't let her look out the side windows.

It's labor-intensive but it works.
posted by gaspode at 5:49 AM on June 15, 2010

The acupressure wristbands worked great for my sister who got horribly carsick. They were 3 bucks.
Ginger pills worked for the mythbusters.
posted by defcom1 at 5:50 AM on June 15, 2010

This was my younger brother (and fellow backseat companion) for years when we were children. My parents often told me to let him fall asleep, but quite frankly, if he didn't pass out immediately, spewing was inevitable. Keeping him distracted (and by extension, not looking out the window) was definitely the way to go.

The wristbands, they did nothing.
posted by deludingmyself at 6:27 AM on June 15, 2010

But the neat thing about meclizine is that, in proper doses, it has basically no discernible side-effects (for humans, not just for dogs).

It cures my headaches.
posted by SandiBeech at 6:31 AM on June 15, 2010

This was me - and unfortunately, though I've gotten better, I haven't full outgrown it at 24. It truly is miserable.

Ginger does help - Ginger People brand chew candies are my favorite, and I'll also sip small amounts of Maine Root ginger soda, but that stuff is STRONG and I doubt I could have handled it as a two-year-old. Sitting in the front, or at least in the middle of the back seat, also makes a big difference, as does fresh air/having the window open. Being stressed and tense and miserable for the last 45 minutes of a drive is absolutely horrible - any sort of distraction that can take your daughter's mind off her carsickness might help.

On trips that have historically proven very difficult for me (back woods of NH, VT and MA, usually) I just take a Dramamine and I'm out cold. Unfortunately, the effects last for far longer than the pill bottle suggests they will - about 12 hours instead of 4-6 - so often the first few hours of a visit are completely lost in a haze and I have to excuse myself to sleep. But that shouldn't be a problem for a 2-year-old, and it's SO much better than feeling miserable the entire time.
posted by Cygnet at 7:02 AM on June 15, 2010

When I'm really motion sick, and I just have to make it through a trip, I tend to think that dramamine's drowsiness is a GOOD thing. It reduces the motion sickness and I don't have to be awake for the motion either. For a 2-yr-old, reducing motion sickness and making her sleepy might help.
posted by galadriel at 7:30 AM on June 15, 2010

Best answer: I have been a life-long travel sickness sufferer, since I was a babe in arms according to my parents and I'm now 38. (There was a house on the way to my Grandparents' house which my mother would always point out as the house where they had to knock on the door of a complete stranger and ask if they could use the bathroom to wash the sick off their baby.)

Anyway I have built up a repertoire of ways to reduce the nausea, some of which are usable with a 2 year old. Here goes:

• Corners (and to a lesser extent jerks) are what bring it on. My family found it much better to take any alternative route to a destination which was mainly on motorways (highways in the US?), even if it increased journey time a fair amount.
• Looking forwards through the windscreen is important, rather than looking out the side windows or interacting with the people in the car. Can you put her seat in the centre of the back seat?
• Sucking something (anything) helps IMMENSELY. I think its the swallowing motion interacting with the inner ear or something. I always always have a packet of boiled sweets in my bag for instant relief. If your little one is too small for sweets could you give her a bottle or pacifier to suck?

It won't help you for a good few years yet, but it was an incredibly joyful discovery for me as an adult that being the driver completely cures travel sickness!
posted by alicegoldie at 7:37 AM on June 15, 2010

A call to your pediatrician's office should clear up whether Dramamine is cleared for your child's age group or not.

As I understand it from my mom (a pediactric nurse), Dramamine is no longer recommended for 2 year olds. To one patient's parent she advised teaching the kids to throw up in gallon sized ziplock bags, to which the parent responded, "Oh cool! Yeah we can totally do that!". Apparently my sister and I were trained to do this, though I don't recall.
posted by fontophilic at 7:50 AM on June 15, 2010

salty foods help me when I'm sick to my stomach - the little lunch packs of potato chips, usually. and seconding the cold thing; I've known people who pack those little blue ice container things and hold them when they start to get nauseous. They make cute freezable "boo boo" reusable ice packs that could be good for a little one.
posted by lemniskate at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2010

One sidenote: if you let you child ride in someone else's car, make sure to TELL THEM and SEND ALONG A BUCKET. A kid barfing is one thing (and certainly not their fault), but a kid known to barf being put in someone else's car and barfing without warning is just Not The Thing.

*grinds teeth* *thinks of someone in particular*
posted by wenestvedt at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone, for all the suggestions. I'll implement the ones we can and update next time we take the trip (probably late July). Planning on:

-- wristbands (they were a complete failure for me during morning sickness -- I used to stare at them reproachfully while barfing -- but might as well try it)
-- ginger, if she'll take it in some form -- maybe there are lollipops?
-- make sure she's neither hungry nor too full
-- mini-icepacks for her to hold
-- keep car super-air-conditioned
-- continue to time trip for nap and hope it goes smoothly so she can stay asleep
-- in our soon-to-be-acquired minivan, move captain's chair to middle position in middle row and put her there, to see out the front window, and block the side windows with screens.
-- no toys, so her attention is focused to the outside

I wish there were some good way to put a parent next to her, but even the minivan will be chock full o' babies, and it would mean putting the (soon-to-be) newborn in the way-back outboard seat, which feels a little too remote to me.
posted by palliser at 12:16 PM on June 15, 2010

Here's what you want for ginger candy; it's strong stuff. You might want the chews or some of their other preparations; I think the hard candies might be a bad size for a little one.
posted by jocelmeow at 12:27 PM on June 15, 2010

You could try minced ginger or minced candied ginger and put it in gingerale to soak. Then freeze it into icecube tray popsicles. Keep em in a cooler and pass them out one at a time to suck on? An ipod with headphones for music distraction?
posted by kch at 7:49 PM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: Okay, well, we've had 4 long car rides now without vomiting, when it used to be every time! Yay, AskMe!

I never managed to get ginger into her, in any form, but here are the things I've done:

-- time trip for nap, and don't stop while she's sleeping
-- stay on the highway and off the backroads as much as possible, even if it means a slightly longer trip
-- when she's awake, keep talking to her and drawing her attention to the far horizon out the front window
-- put shade down on her window, so she looks out front instead
-- keep the car quite cool, and if she looks a little pale, crack a window
-- no toys, so that she's not staring into her lap
-- light, simple meal before we leave, then crackers about 2 hours into the trip (basically trying to make sure she stays about half-full)

She still looks a little miserable for a few minutes here and there, but it's so much better than before. Thanks, all, for the great suggestions!
posted by palliser at 12:39 PM on October 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

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