With so many families headed to the beach, the campground or even Grandma's house now that summer is upon us, it's easy to get stressed about packing everything you'll need for a road trip. Between remembering extra outfits in case of diaper blowouts, packing chargers for all your varied mobile devices and narrowing down the number of beloved stuffed animals that will accompany your child on the journey, even the most adventurous parents can be easily put off of taking long car treks. The biggest deterrent, though, may be when your child suffers from car sickness; moms and dads in that boat often dread the additional preparations needed to keep the family road trip from becoming a fiasco.
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Car sickness is a type of motion sickness. It can be especially difficult for children, because they often can't see out the window: Sitting in the backseat, their vision is usually obscured by the front seat, and the high belt lines in most cars these days can keep them from seeing out the side windows. When your child's inner ear senses the movement of the car but his or her eyes and inactive joints cannot, it sends conflicting information to the brain, according to Dr. Jay Hoecker of MayoClinic.com. If your child is focusing on a book or screen, it can compound the problem.
The good news is that there are many simple things you can do to help prevent (or ease) car sickness in your children.
- Plan to travel during naptime: If your schedule permits (and your child is known to sleep in the car), consider syncing travel time with naptime.
- Ditch electronic devices: If you can, keep your kids looking out the window or toward the horizon by playing an old-fashioned game of I spy or license plate bingo. If the kids are too young, try distracting them with a family sing-a-long. If you're going to have to listen to the "Frozen" soundtrack again anyway, why not make it a bona-fide in-car event?
- Keep the air flowing: If your child is seated in the middle of the backseat, aim the air-conditioning vents straight at them. Or crack the windows to let fresh air inside the cabin.
- Pack the right snacks: Bringing along mints, a cool bottle of water, or saltines or soda crackers to sooth nausea always helps. Avoiding greasy snacks and fast-food meals while on the road is even better.
- Explore natural remedy options: Many health-food stores and pharmacies carry natural products that are safe for children to use. Anything from wristbands to behind-the-ear oil treatments or ginger tablets may help your child beat car sickness. Do your research; call your pediatrician and investigate ahead of time to learn what's safe for your child before you hit the road.
- Allow for frequent stops: Sometimes, just getting out of the car and moving around can keep car sickness at bay. If your child is on the verge, find a rest stop and have him lie down outside on his backs with his eyes closed, with a cool towel on his forehead to help him recalibrate.
If car sickness is inevitable, no need to fear. Talk to your pediatrician about medication options, or make this simple travel kit created by Cars.com contributor Sara Lacey:
- Pack a water bottle, a plastic grocery bag, empty gallon-sized Ziploc bags, mints or gum (spearmint works well) and another Ziploc bag filled with warm, damp washcloths (stowed in a thermal lunch bag to keep them warm).
- When your child is feeling like she's going to throw up and you can't pull over, give her the empty Ziploc bag to use. Then you can zip it up and throw it away when you get to the next trash can.
- When she's done being sick, give her a warm washcloth to clean up. Then have her drink some water and suck on a mint or chew some gum.
Although it may take a little extra planning, there are plenty of good times to be had in the car this summer — even when traveling with kids prone to car sickness.