Little Kids

Ask Dr. Dina: What can we do to help when our kid gets carsick?

Here’s how to deal with motion sickness and what you can do to help your queasy little one.

Kid looking sick and tired in the back of a car

We’ll be driving a lot over the holidays and our preschooler tends to get carsick. What can we do?

Dealing with motion sickness ranks right up there as one of the yuckiest challenges parents have to face. It makes me nauseous just to think about the number of times we had to strip and wash the car seat cover.

While doctors don’t fully understand what causes motion sickness, it’s believed it typically happens when the brain receives conflicting information from the inner ears, eyes and nerves. For instance, if a kid is sitting in the back and can’t see out the window, his inner ear might sense that the car is moving, but his eyes or joints won’t. That disconnect can lead to an upset stomach, and all too often (unfortunately), barfing. Many kids outgrow it, but in the meantime, if your child has trouble with long car rides, here’s what you can try.

Decrease sensory input Try to limit the number of distractions inside the car, like toys, books and gadgets. Instead, encourage your kid to look out the window as much as possible.

Plan your meals Avoid heavy and fatty foods before a drive, but don’t skip meals entirely. A small, bland snack like crackers is a better choice. And small sips of water can help, so be sure to bring along a water bottle.

Turn up the AC Like a dog hanging its head out of the car window, your kid will fare better if there’s lots of cool air circulating.

Play a game Count cars, have a few rounds of road trip bingo or play I spy. Distraction can sometimes work like magic.


Try medication For long drives or in cases of severe motion sickness, there are prescription medications like ondansetron that can help. Over-the-counter medication, like Gravol, works well, but it can make some kids quite groggy. Speak to your doctor about your options.

Dina Kulik is a paediatrician and emergency room doctor in Toronto and mom to three boys, who are five, three and 17 months. Send her your kids’ health questions at

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