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My son gets carsick frequently. What can I do?

Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP


​This is a very common problem—and one that can be very messy and unpleasant. It's also a problem that doesn't have a straightforward solution—except for avoiding car rides, which isn't always possible.

There are medications such as ​diphenhydramine or dimenhydrinate that can sometimes help with carsickness, but they can make children very groggy or sleepy. In some children they can have the opposite effect, which isn't helpful in a car either. Before you try any medication, you should talk to your pediatrician.

Simple Things You Can Do to Help Prevent Carsickness:

  • Have your child sit as close to the front as is safe (not in the back of a minivan), preferably near a window so that they can see outside and get a breeze

  • Have your child eat frequent light snacks, such as crackers or pretzels

  • Make sure your child stays hydrated, and avoid sodas and caffeine

  • Keep your child's attention outside the car; avoid tablets, video players, books, or other activities that require close attention

  • Use distraction, like songs or "I Spy" games

  • Keep the car cool and your child lightly dressed; being hot makes carsickness worse

  • Try to schedule long car ​rides for a time when your child would be asleep

It's also a good idea to dress your child in clothes that are easy to remove, and to bring along spare clothing. And…keep plastic bags, wipes and towels in the car for cleanup and to bag vomit-covered clothing—before everyone else in the car starts feeling sick!​​​

Additional Information from

Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP

Claire McCarthy, MD, FAAP is a primary care pediatrician at Boston Children's Hospital, an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, a senior editor for Harvard Health Publications, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. She writes about health and parenting for the Harvard Health Blog, Huffington Post and many other online and print publications.  

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The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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