Avoid Car Sickness

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If you get car sick, you probably anticipate every extended road trip with dread. Car sickness is just one kind of motion sickness (or kinetosis) that some experience when they're riding in an automobile. Dizziness, fatigue and nausea might make the trip miserable, and even vomiting doesn't make the affected person feel any better. So how do you go about preventing car sickness in the first place? Here are some ways to enjoy the ride, sickness-free.

Steps

  1. Understand why car sickness happens. All motion sickness results from your body sensing a discrepancy between what you see (in this case, the inside of a car, which tells your brain that you're sitting still) and what you feel (your body's vestibular system, which senses balance from your inner ear, tells your brain that you're moving). The conflict between what you see and what you feel triggers the production of a neurotransmitter, likely mistaken by your body as a signal of hallucinogenic poisoning, so your body tries to rid itself of whatever is causing the disorienting condition.[1]
  2. Look out the window. Watching the passing scenery can confirm your balance system's detection of motion and help resolve the mismatch that causes car sickness. Focus on a non-moving object in the distance, such as the horizon. Don't do anything that involves focusing on a fixed spot, such as reading or playing a card game. Don't turn around or look from side to side much.
  3. Sit in the front. Consider driving (if possible). Drivers rarely get car sickness as they are always focused on the road. Sitting in the passenger's seat up front is the next best thing. Not only will you have more window space to look through, but in some cars, the ride tends to be less bumpy in the front. If driving is not possible or desirable, visualize driving or pretend you are driving. This can often prevent or alleviate nausea.
  4. Close your eyes. Sleep if you can. If your eyes are closed, you don't see anything, and that removes the cause of motion sickness. In addition, sleeping can take your mind off of your car sickness.
  5. Open the window. Many people find that smelling fresh, cool air helps make them feel better, although the reason behind this isn't clear. If it is not possible to open the window, lean towards the bottom of the window and breathe. There should be leaks of air. Some people find that certain smells can make them feel worse (such as car air fresheners, perfumes, smoke and food). Remove the source of the smell if possible or keep fresh air coming in. If neither is possible, spray a soothing smell like lavender or mint to cover up the other smells. See Tips below.
  6. Take breaks. Go outside to stretch your legs. Sit on a bench or under a tree and take some deep breaths in through your mouth, breathing deeply from your stomach to help relax. This is especially important during journeys that involve a long distance of curvy roads. Not only do these tend to make car sickness better, but it is also good for the driver to take a break.
  7. Take steps to prevent nausea. Since nausea is the most debilitating symptom of car sickness, it's always good to take precautionary measures. Ginger root is a classic remedy because of its widely recognized antiemetic (nausea-preventing) effects. Keep in mind, however, that many medications which are normally effective against nausea might not work against nausea caused by motion sickness.

    • Eat a few ginger biscuits (cookies) before you go, during the journey, and after you arrive.
    • Other good things to try eating are ginger candies (chewable), ginger coated in sugar (if you don't mind the heat of ginger) or ginger mints.
    • If you are traveling a long distance, you could also consider taking ginger tea in a thermos. Peppermint tea is another good alternative. Cold drinks could include ginger ale or ginger beer (soda).
    • You can also take over-the-counter ginger root caplets that will supply a concentrated dosage of ginger (1 to 2 caplets will work well for most adults.) They are commonly available at health food stores and larger grocery stores.
    • Fresh mint can also cure or alleviate nausea. Buy it in the produce section of the supermarket. It doesn't have the drowsiness side-effect of over-the-counter nausea medicine. Start by eating 2 leaves and feel free to eat more if you need it.
    • Keep a peppermint candy (or just about any long lasting hard candy) in your mouth. This method will work very well even after feelings of nausea have begun. Do not chew the candy because feelings of nausea may return fairly quickly after the candy is gone. For those whose nausea is worsened by the smell or taste of peppermint, lemon drops may prove helpful.
    • Rubbing alcohol wipes are useful as well for nausea. These are purchased at a medical supply store or in a regular drug store back by the pharmacy. Tear open a wipe and sniff gently as you pass it past your nose. This works very well
    • Listening to music can help keep your mind off the sickness.
  8. Practice acupressure. If you feel that you might be getting car sick, apply gentle pressure between the two tendons about 3cm (about an inch) or so back from the wrist joint. You can also purchase a wrist band that will do this for you.[2] This should temporarily delay or alleviate nausea until you can take a break from the trip. You can also purchase accu-pressure bands at a local pharmacy.
  9. Use medication that prevents car sickness. There are over-the-counter and prescription drugs that are effective against car sickness. Most of them contain dimenhydrinate,[3] meclizine[4] or scopolamine.[5] Some popular brands are Dramamine and Bonine/Antivert. Look into the side effects before using any of these drugs (especially if you're driving), and ask your doctor just in case. Some of these are available as patches and can be particularly helpful.

Folk Remedies

  • There are many "folk remedies" which seem to work for some people, but can't be explained and haven't been proven. If all else fails, it might be worth giving them a shot:

    • Some people swear the smell of newspaper makes them feel better. Since reading the paper will probably make you sick, just have some newspaper in the car with you because all you really need is the smell. If you don't always have a newspaper handy, many art supply stores sell pads of newsprint (which smells the same) that you may put in the car.
    • Eating a dill pickle before and during a trip could prevent feeling sick.
    • Wrapping a rubber band around your wrist. You can also purchase motion sickness wrist bands; some contain medications, some do not; the theory being that it provides a distraction.
    • Chewing gum seems to ease the feeling for some.
    • Eating saltines or other slightly salty snacks appears to help some people.
    • Placing a plaster over the belly button.

Tips

  • Don't eat a heavy meal or consume alcohol right before you take off on your trip. Some find that eating chocolate in the morning before taking the trip can make car sickness worse.
  • Don't talk about motion sickness, or even look at someone else who's experiencing it.[6]
  • Help prevent car sickness in children by giving them a raised seat where they have a clear view of the outdoors, and play games that encourage them to look outwards. Don't let them watch movies in the car. It can trigger car sickness.
  • If you find map-reading makes you sick, ask the driver to pull over to check a map.
  • A heavy fog will severely limit your view range and can hasten the sick feeling. If that's the case, close your eyes and try to sleep.


Warnings

  • Even if you take all of these precautions, you might still get car sick. Have single use emesis bags, which have a one way valve. Empty clean ice cream buckets with the lid work well, too. Make sure it doesn't have a strange smell to it before throwing it in the car. The lid nicely keeps everything in. They are also easy to scrub out and reuse.
  • Always carry bicarbonate of soda in the car somewhere. If you do vomit on the car upholstery, rub the bicarbonate into it straight away to remove the smell and to assist cleaning when you can get to it later.
  • Consult your doctor before using any medications for motion/car sickness.
  • If you have stomach problems such as GERDs or acid reflux, sucking a peppermint may give you heartburn, as it is a acid trigger. Check with your doctor first.

Things You'll Need

  • Fresh Mint
  • Ginger candies, biscuits (cookies), ginger pieces, ginger mints
  • Peppermint candies or lemon drops
  • Ginger or peppermint tea in a Thermos
  • Paper bags
  • Calming air freshener (lavender, mint) - make sure it is as pure as possible. (Try health food stores)
  • Newspaper or newsprint
  • Pillow and blanket
  • Water
  • Music
  • Books that others read to you
  • Books on tape
  • Games that you can play while keeping your eyes on the road
  • A good attitude!

Related Tips and Steps

Sources and Citations