How to cope with car sickness on your long-weekend road trip

13 April 2017

Car sickness can turn a family trip into a nightmare, with mom and dad nervously looking over their shoulders and fearing the worst.

The Easter weekend is fast approaching and along with chocolate bunnies and eggs, pickled fish and hot cross buns there might be a weekend away.

But while some may enjoy taking to the open road, for others it’s a total nightmare as motion sickness is a guarantee.

A recent study by car company Ford found adults who stared at their cellphones or laptop screens became ill after an average of only 10 minutes.

“Car sickness can turn an eagerly awaited family trip into a nightmare, with mom and dad nervously looking over their shoulders and fearing the worst,” says Eike Schmidt, a research engineer at the Ford Research and Innovation Centre in Aachen, Germany.

Read more: A guide to travelling with kids

Although there's no cure for the sick feeling, there are things we can do to make it bearable, says researcher Professor Jelte Bos from the TNO Perceptual and Cognitive Systems lab in Soesterberg in the Netherlands.

“Car sickness is a complex problem. It is a natural reaction to an unnatural stimulus that cannot be cured as such,” he says. “But we can look to alleviate the symptoms.”

Here are a few tips to ease car sickness:

  • Have a clear view of the road you’re travelling. Sitting in the back of the car, head down and playing videogames or watching movies worsens the condition. Move to the middle in the backseats, or preferably a front seat, to see the road ahead.
  • As a driver, make the journey as even as possible. Stop-and-go traffic, as well as zigzag roads, adds to a sufferer’s misery. Drive smoothly and where possible avoid sudden braking, harsh acceleration and potholes.
  • Distract sufferers. Constant pondering on how sick they're feeling heightens the effects. Take a sufferer's mind off the motion sickness; even a family singalong could help.
  • Keep away from caffeine. As with flying, it's important to keep hydrated while driving for a long distance in a car, especially if you’re prone to motion sickness. Taking little sips of water is good or enjoy a cooldrink and ginger biscuits.

    Keep away from alcohol and caffeine.

  • Try to keep your head steady. The condition is caused by a mismatch of signals sent between the brain and eyes, and from the organs of balance – which are in the ears. This makes keeping your head steady a useful tip in preventing a terrible case of motion sickness. Use a pillow or head support to keep your head as still as possible. Babies don’t get car sick; this only comes once they start walking.
  • Fresh air is key. Operate the air-con or open the windows to keep fresh air circulating. And practice breathing slowly and steadily. This also helps to keep you relaxed.

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