How to Avoid Car Sickness: Tips, Tricks, and Remedies for Adults, Children, and Even Dogs

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Car sickness is a truly unpleasant experience, and can ruin a road trip or wreak havoc on day-to-day journeys. Adults, children, and dogs (yes, even dogs!) can all suffer from it, with some being more susceptible to it than others.

Why do we get car sick?

Interestingly, motion sickness rarely affects the car driver and mainly debilitates the passengers. It occurs when there’s a conflict between what you see and what your inner ears (which help with balance) feel, causing a variety of effects on the body:

  • Cold sweat
  • Pale skin
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches

In some cases, these symptoms will alleviate once the body adapts to the conditions. However this isn’t the case for all sufferers, and to help those inflicted, we have put together a few car sickness tips, tricks, and remedies.

Adults & Children:

  1. Avoid fatty or greasy foods and alcohol before travel
    Any food or drink that may be difficult to digest, such as greasy or fatty meals can make car sickness worse. The grease/fat can cause changes in the body that contribute to the nausea, while alcohol can cause hangover-like effects and make car sickness worse.
  2. Avoid bumpy roads
    The sudden motions along a bumpy road can aggravate the symptoms of car sickness. It is better to avoid these where possible.
  3. Sit in the front seat of a car
    This can help by allowing you to focus on the road (like the driver) so that your eyes are able to interpret the same motion information that your body is experiencing. Your body will adapt to the car and road quicker.
  4. Focus your eyes on the horizon
    Focusing on the horizon or a fixed point on the horizon can help to stabilise how your body is processing the motions of the car.
  5. Do not sit facing backwards from your direction of travel
    Sitting the opposite way to the travel direction can confuse the body’s motion senses and it may take longer to adjust to the conditions.
  6. Stabilise your head
    Related to point 4, a stable head can help you focus on a stable point in the distance as well as help alleviate dizziness. Try a travel pillow to keep steady.
  7. Get some fresh air and breathe deeply
    Opening a window for fresh air can ease some of the symptoms, such as sweating and dizziness, as well as rid the car of any odours that might be having an effect.
  8. Avoid reading while the car is in motion
    Car sickness is made worse when concentrating on an object inside the car as it can exacerbate the disconnection between your eyes and the motion your body senses. Put the book or phone down if you’re feeling unwell.
  9. Take frequent breaks
    Taking a break from the car to stretch your legs and get some air, especially on winding or very bumpy roads can help the alleviate travel sickness.
  10. Try having a nap
    If you can’t stop during your journey, a nap can help ease the car sickness.

Dogs:

There are a few signs that can indicate when a dog is suffering from car sickness:

  • Excess drooling
  • Disinterest or inactivity
  • Vomiting
  • Consistent whining

If you want to take your dog for a long walk but need to drive there, or you are headed on a road trip with your canine companion, there are a few tips to help your dog overcome car sickness:

  1. Make sure the dog’s stomach is empty before driving
    Most dogs don’t get car sick when their stomachs are empty – try giving them some water and limit intake to small snacks prior to the journey.
  2. Distract your dog
    Playing with your dog in the car will distract it from the effects of car sickness, if you’re the driver, bringing a friend or family member along to keep your dog company may help.
  3. Take frequent breaks
    Taking breaks to let your dog stretch its legs and use the toilet can help them deal with car sickness.
  4. Open the windows
    The fresh air will help your dog with symptoms such as dizziness.

Medicines and Technologies:

There are a variety of medicines and treatments to help people with car sickness. Below are
few of the popular solutions:

  1. Motion sickness pills
    Over-the-counter medicine Hyoscine (also known as scopolamine) is said to be effective for milder cases of motion sickness, and can be ingested or used as patches – but do check with a pharmacist before purchasing any medication, as there are often side effects. For more severe car sickness, speak to a doctor to see if a prescription drug is needed. Motion sickness medication is available for dogs too, ask your vet about this.
  2. Antihistamines
    Antihistamines are usually used for allergies, but can help with motion sickness too. They should be taken at least a couple of hours before a journey, but check with a pharmacist for details, as even though the side effects are less than Hyoscine, they may still cause drowsiness.
  3. Acupressure bands
    According to Chinese medicine, acupressure can help to balance the flow of energy in the body. A technique to restore balance is to apply pressure with your thumb two inches below your wrist for a few minutes. Acupressure bands have the same effect. Many have claimed that acupressure helped to reduce motion sickness – however, it should be noted that many experts believe this to be little more than a placebo effect, as there is no scientific evidence that these bands work.
  4. Carbonated/Sparkling water
    A gulp of sparkling water has been known to temporarily settle the stomach when suffering from motion sickness. This is especially the case if travelling on an empty stomach. Beware if on public transport though, the fizzy water helps because it makes you burp!
  5. Ginger/mints
    Both ginger and mints have been claimed help people handle the effects of car sickness. Ginger or products that contain ginger may work as a digestive and help to settle the stomach and quell nausea. Peppermint is a similar natural remedy for nausea. Mint chewing gum or sweets help to produce more saliva that can neutralise stomach acids and alleviate the symptoms of car sickness. As with the acupressure bands, these effects from ginger and mint may be a placebo, as evidence for this is only anecdotal.

Read more tips on driving, maintenance, and car servicing, or digitally manage your vehicle with AA Automyze.