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Posted by Dr. Monica Wonnacott | May 1, 2016

Does Your Kid Suffer From Motion/car Sickness?

Today was a typical Spring Saturday, filled with a ton of errands and ball games, which meant lots of time spent in the car. With all the driving, I wasn’t surprised to hear from my daughter, “mom my tummy doesn’t feel good,” as she often suffers from car sickness. So what can you do?

The short answer is very little. There isn’t a magic pill or trick that makes it all better. Here are a few tips that can help though.

  1. Have your affected child sit as close to the front as possible and by a window (my 5 year-old can’t sit in the front seat due to her age, so I have her sit in the 2nd of 3 rows in our SUV by the window).
  2. Offer a small snack (I pulled out the gold fish crackers in my console and threw them back to her).
  3. Keep hydrated (she has a water bottle at all times in the door).
  4. Keep your child’s attention outside the car (I made her stop watching the tablet and played the “alphabet game” with her. Little aside: the alphabet game is where you have the child look for all the letters of the alphabet on signs, license plates, buildings, billboards, etc. outside of the car. It’s a great game for passing time, interacting with your kids, and reviewing letters in a fun way).
  5. Keep it cool (I had my daughter take off her sweater before she got buckled).
  6. Be prepared. If you have a kid that vomits, you should keep little vomit bags within easy reach. I have easy access to the expandable blue medical ones, but an airline bag or even a Ziplock would do the trick. You may also want to have some wet wipes and a change of clothes always stashed in the car.


I often field questions on what medications can be given to kids for motion sickness. To my knowledge, there is no drug officially approved by the FDA for motion sickness in children. As a general rule, I don’t prescribe or recommend medications for motion sickness in kids. With that said, sometimes medications are still used, but they are done so “off label.” The most commonly used drug class is antihistamines (e.g., Dramamine or Benadryl). The big problem with these medications is that they can cause sedation. As an interesting aside, it is worth noting that some kids have a paradoxical hyper reaction with these medications, so it is worth testing out the medication before you give it to your child for the big travel event. I’ve also heard of docs using anti-nausea medications, but again they don’t have a motion sickness indication (I don’t personally prescribe them for motion sickness). The motion sickness drug, Scopolamine (comes in a transdermal patch) can have dangerous side effects in children and shouldn’t be used. So if you want to use medications, you may want to talk to your pediatrician first.

Whoever said, “it’s not the destination, but the journey,” never had a kid with motion sickness. May you get wherever you’re going with a little less vomit.