How to Avoid Car Sickness

Three Methods:Changing the Way You TravelMaking Dietary ChangesUsing Medical Treatments

If you get carsick, you most likely dread every single extended road trip. It can negatively affect your commute or fun activities with friends. Car sickness is just one kind of motion sickness (or kinetosis) that some experience when they're riding in an automobile. Dizziness, fatigue, cold sweats, and nausea are common symptoms of car sickness.[1] So how do you go about preventing car sickness in the first place? Use some simple tips and tricks to enjoy the ride, sickness-free.

Method 1
Changing the Way You Travel

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    Sit in the front seat of a car. Doctors believe that motion sickness is caused by a conflict between what your eyes are seeing and how your body is interpreting the motion of a vehicle, which uses signals originating in your inner ear to sense balance.[2] For example, if your eyes see the car seat in front of you but your body feels the curves and speed of the road, your inner ear might be thrown off. This then leads to the nausea and dizziness so typical of carsickness.[3] To avoid this feeling, try to have your eyes focused on the road in front of you so that your eyes and your body can interpret the same information. By sitting in the front seat, you are much less likely to experience a discrepancy between what you see and how your body interprets motion.
    • Driving the car yourself has the added benefit of giving you something to focus on, which can distract you from your sickness.[4]
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    Focus your eyes on the horizon. Having a fixed visual point in front of you will help keep your eyes, inner ear, and nerves in check.[5] Look out the front window and find a stable point at the horizon, somewhere in the distance. This point could be a mountain, a tree, a building, or simply a point in space. Concentrate all your visual attention at this point. Hold your gaze there even if there are bumps, curves, and hills. Resist the temptation to look out the side window: only look out the front window.
    • If you are in control of the vehicle, be sure that you are paying attention to the road and surrounding cars as well as to the horizon in front of you.
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    Keep cool. Having a cool, well-ventilated atmosphere can help mitigate car sickness as well as alleviate symptoms such as sweating and nausea. If you can, crack the car windows open to create a cross breeze. Alternatively, you can turn on the car's air conditioning. Point the air vents at your face to get the most benefit.[6]
    • Ventilation can also help reduce food odors in the car. Car sickness can be exacerbated by strong food odors.[7]
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    Stabilize your head. It can sometimes be hard to keep your eyes focused on a single point when you are in a bouncing, bumpy car. To stabilize your vision, make sure your head is stabilized too. Rest it against the headrest behind you to keep it still. A neck pillow might also help you keep your head — and therefore your vision — steady.[8]
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    Take frequent breaks. Go outside to stretch your legs. Sit on a bench or under a tree and take some deep breaths in through your mouth to help relax. This is especially important during journeys that involve a long distance of curvy roads. Not only does stopping frequently help alleviate car sickness, but it is also good for the driver to take a break every once in a while. Resume driving when you feel alert and when your dizziness and nausea pass.
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    Try to nap. Sleeping through your motion sickness can also work wonders for car passengers. You won't be aware of the differences between your visual information and the signals your body is sending because your eyes will be closed. Many people find that sleeping is the best way to get through a long car trip without motion sickness.
    • If you have trouble napping in the car, consider using a form of sleep aid. If you use a sleep aid, however, you have to be certain that you will not be needed to drive at any point during the trip.
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    Focus on something else. Distractions are a great way to decrease car sickness, especially for children or those who have to ride in the backseat. Take your mind off of your dizziness and nausea by listening to music, singing, or playing a game of 20 questions with your fellow passengers.[9]
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    Put down the books, phones, and devices. Car sickness is worsened when you are concentrating on a visual object that is within the car instead of outside the car. Staring at a book, a phone game, a kindle, or a tablet can heighten the mismatch between your eyes and the rest of your body. To prevent car sickness, make sure the only objects you focus your eyes on are outside of the car, on the horizon in front of you.[10]
    • There are many people who experience car sickness only when reading in the car. Make sure this doesn't happen to you!
    • Audio books, the car radio, and CDs are a great way to be entertained in the car without causing car sickness.
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    Breathe deeply. Car sickness is made worse by feelings of anxiety and nervousness. Relaxation techniques such as slow, deliberate breathing exercises can help you slow your heart rate and relax your body, making it less likely that you will experience symptoms of motion sickness.[11]
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    Avoid bumpy roads. The smoother your ride, the less likely you are to experience car sickness. Ways to smooth out your ride include driving on highways instead of stop-and-go city streets and making sure your car has up-to-date shocks.[12] You can also take care in your route planning to avoid hilly or mountainous roads by driving around particularly hilly regions. Aim for as flat a ride as possible.
    • Driving at off-peak times can also help prevent getting stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
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    Buy a motion sickness wrist band. A motion sickness wrist band provides gentle, constant pressure to your forearm, about one inch from your wrist joint. This pressure is supposed to help alleviate the nausea caused by motion sickness. While anti-nausea wristbands haven't been scientifically proven to be useful, they are relatively cheap and have no negative side effects.[13] You can consider giving it a try to see if it happens to work for you.[14]
    • If you do not own a motion sickness wrist band, you can apply gentle pressure on your forearm (between the two tendons) about 3cm (roughly an inch) or so back from the wrist joint.
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    Consider alternative forms of transportation. Some people who experience car sickness also experience motion sickness in other vehicles, such as trains, buses, and planes. Some people, however, only experience motion sickness in the car. Trains, buses, and planes might be viable forms of transit. These other vehicles may be a better option because they are able to provide a smoother ride, are less likely to confuse your eyes, and allow you to sit higher up in your seat.
    • It is helpful to find the most stable seats on these alternative forms of transit. Make sure your seat is facing the direction in which you are traveling (do not choose a backwards-facing seat); sit towards the front of trains and buses; choose a wing seat on an airplane. You are less likely to be bounced around in these seats.[15]
    • For shorter distances, walking or biking might allow you to avoid the car altogether.

Method 2
Making Dietary Changes

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    Avoid greasy meals and alcohol before trips. Greasy foods make your body primed to experience nausea.[16] And alcohol can cause hangover symptoms that can worsen car sickness, such as dizziness, headache, nausea, and sweating.[17] If you know you will have to ride in a car soon, stay away from high-fat meals and alcoholic beverages to avoid car sickness.
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    Eat frequent, light meals. Heavy meals can make it easier to experience feelings of nausea. If you are riding in a car--especially on a long trip--stick to light, healthy, low-fat, small meals that you eat more frequently. If you can find a meal that is low in fat but high in protein, that is the ideal food to prevent car sickness.[18]
    • For example, do not eat a hamburger on a road trip. Instead, buy a salad with grilled chicken. Do not drink a milkshake on a road trip. Instead, drink a lowfat yogurt smoothie with added protein powder.
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    Have bland, floury snacks in the car. Plain, bland, flavorless snacks can help settle a turbulent stomach. Snacks such as dry toast, saltines, and pretzels can help absorb stomach acids and make a stomach feel calmer. They are also a good way to ease your hunger pangs without causing indigestion.[19]
    • These snacks also do not have much of an odor, which is helpful because strong food odors and flavors can exacerbate car sickness.[20]
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    Stay hydrated. Dehydration can exacerbate the symptoms of car sickness. Be sure that you drink plenty of water before and during a car trip in order to avoid feelings of sickness.[21] While water is the best way to stay hydrated, a flavored beverage might help serve as a needed distraction from your feelings of dizziness or nausea: feel free to treat yourself to a soda without added caffeine, such as ginger ale.
    • High-protein beverages have been shown to help reduce nausea as well.[22]
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    Consume plenty of ginger. Ginger has been shown to help mitigate car sickness and other forms of motion sickness.[23] You can eat (or drink) ginger in many different forms. There are ginger lollipops, ginger lozenges, ginger teas, ginger sodas, ginger pills, candied ginger, and ginger cookies.[24] Any of these will help settle your stomach. Just be sure that your snack is made from actual ginger--not imitation flavoring.
    • Ask your doctor about whether ginger is safe for you to take. It is possible that ginger can interfere with certain medications.[25]
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    Keep a supply of mints and gum at hand. Peppermint, like ginger, is a natural remedy for nausea. Mint gums and candies also help your body produce more saliva, which can neutralize stomach acids. Moreover, these flavors can serve as welcome distractions when you can think about nothing other than your symptoms.[26] Suck on a peppermint candy or chew some mint gum to help calm your stomach and focus on something else.

Method 3
Using Medical Treatments

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    Talk to your doctor about car sickness. Most cases of car sickness can be dealt with using lifestyle changes and home remedies. However, sometimes car sickness can get in the way of your job or everyday functioning. In this case, you should talk to your doctor about possible medical interventions, such as over-the-counter or prescription medication.
    • You should also talk to your doctor if you (or your child) experience symptoms well after you have gotten out of the car, severe headache, difficulty hearing or seeing, and difficulty walking. These could indicate issues that are more serious than regular car sickness.[27]
    • Susceptibility to car sickness may be related to age, race, sex, hormone factors, sensory illness, and migraines. Ask your doctor if you have an elevated risk for motion sickness.[28]
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    Take antihistamines 30 – 60 minutes before entering a car. There are over-the-counter and prescription drugs that are effective against car sickness. Most of them contain dimenhydrinate (aka dramamine) or meclizine.[29] Some popular brands are Dramamine and Bonine/Antivert. Some of these are available as patches and can be particularly helpful because of their ability to release the medicine over time. Antihistamines can prevent nausea caused by motion sickness by dulling the inner ear's motion sensors. In order to work properly, you should take the medication 30-60 minutes before you begin your car trip.[30]
    • Look into the side effects before using any of these drugs (especially if you're driving), and ask your doctor just in case. Antihistamines can make you feel sleepy and affect your ability to operate machinery.[31]
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    Ask your doctor for a scopolamine prescription. Scopolamine is only safe for adult use--not for child use.[32] It is prescription-only and is worn as a patch behind the ear. You must wear it 4 hours before your traveling commences. While its side effects can be severe (blurred vision and dry mouth), it is very effective at combating nausea caused by motion sickness.[33] Talk to your doctor about whether it might be a good option for you.


  • 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, as it can trigger car sickness.
  • People with migraines, pregnant women, and children between the ages of 2-12 are the most likely populations to experience car sickness. In many cases, the car sickness is a temporary condition that will eventually subside.
  • Have lots of distractions in the car, but make sure that none of them require you to read or look at a screen. Instead, have lots of fun music, audio books, or safe car games you can play with friends.
  • Keep your car cool and well-ventilated.
  • Make sure your car has up-to-date tires and shocks: you want your ride to be as smooth as possible.
  • Stop the car during the journey and walk for a minute or so. Your car sickness should subside once you are on solid ground.
  • If you experience frequent car sickness, keep a supply of vomit bags handy, just in case you cannot stop the car in time.
  • Try chewing gum. Switch it out for another flavor when it becomes tasteless, as tasteless gum can worsen the sickness.
  • Look far away outside and it may stop you feeling sick.


  • Doctors used to think that traveling on an empty stomach helped alleviate car sickness. We now know that isn't true: it is good to be satiated but not to have a full or heavy stomach. Eating light snacks and small meals is best.
  • Consult your doctor before using any medications or herbal remedies for motion/car sickness. Antihistamines, ginger, and peppermint might not be safe for everyone to use: always talk to a doctor before taking any remedy.

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