No kidding - car sickness strikes at 18 minutes

Article date: 19 May 2008

  • RAC Identifies Car Sick O'Clock

Car sickness affects the average UK child just 18 minutes* into a journey, which is as short as many daily school runs, according to new RAC research. Over a third (38%) of parents surveyed admit their children get sick on journeys but this rises to nearly half (43%) among those with children aged five to 11 years.

Parents point the finger at a range of car sickness causes, with reading a book on-the-go the biggest offender (53%), followed by the rise of in-car entertainment such as playing computer games (27%) or watching portable televisions/DVDs (12%) and bad food choices such as eating sweets and crisps (30%).

And as parents prepare to keep their kids occupied on road trips during half term next week, the RAC research shows they will try anything to prevent their kids' car sickness. Weird and wacky remedies include sucking on a lemon, eating ginger and smelling lavender oil. One parent even admitted to making their child sit on a newspaper to prevent nausea!

Most popular rescue remedies from parents include:


% who found it successful

Winding down the window


Off the shelf sickness cure


Sitting in the window seat


Wearing an acupressure band or copper bracelet


Playing music to distract children


Sitting in the middle seat



RAC has teamed up with leading nutritionist Anita Bean to offer advice on the best food to eat to avoid car sickness. Anita comments: "What children eat and drink before and during a journey can greatly affect whether or not they'll suffer from car sickness, even when travelling short distances on a daily basis. It's important parents are aware of the foods to avoid to help prevent sickness and ensure the smoothest trip possible."

Anita also recommends taking snacks in the car and encouraging kids to eat small amounts of food on longer journeys. Anita's RAC Car Sickness Prevention Menu includes:

  • Ginger biscuits
  • Mints
  • Crackers
  • Rice cakes
  • Dry toast
  • Apples
  • Banana sandwiches

RAC Patrol of the Year Iain Vale says: "Car sickness is never a pleasant experience for parents or kids themselves, but it can also be dangerous if it causes drivers to become distracted from the road. To make sure you're still driving carefully, RAC recommends that drivers always wait until they can safely pull over to assist children, rather than try to help them while driving on the road."

Anita has compiled the following tips on other ways to prevent car sickness in kids:

  • Don't let kids travel with an empty stomach - this can actually make travel sickness worse
  • Time permitting, encourage them to eat a light low fat meal two or three hours before you travel. Pasta, salad, vegetables, bread, cereal bars and fresh fruit are good choices
  • Avoid meat, cheese and milk as well as fatty, fried, salty or spicy food before travelling: burgers, chips, crisps (and other packet snacks), chicken nuggets, and curries are off the menu due to their high salt and fat content which can upset delicate stomachs
  • Try giving them crystallized ginger from health food shops, or ginger biscuits are well known for settling the stomach
  • Encourage kids to take frequent sips of water during travel to prevent dehydration, but don't let them guzzle large volumes of drink as this can make their sickness worse
  • Check the temperature in the car and wind down the window when necessary (RAC's research showed that 44% of parents who did this helped cure their kids' sickness)

Anita has also created the ideal kids meal to serve up before setting off on family trips (available on request from RAC Press Office).


RAC Press office contact:
Vicki Burn 01603 684224/ 07800 692909, Jennifer Hardisty on 0207 908 6465/ /Amy Funston on 0207 908 6433

Notes to editors

*RAC commissioned to carry out online research between  28.03.08 - 04.04.08 among 1004 parents of five to 17-year-olds.

18 minutes is calculated by taking the mid point for each time category in the survey eg 16-30 minutes = 23 and multiplying the midpoint by the number of respondents for each eg 72 responded 16-30 minutes so the calculation is 23 x 72 = 1656. This is then repeated for each time category and all totals added together, divided by the base number of respondents (1004) = the average time when car sickness hits. is a leading market research organisation, carrying out consumer, corporate and niche market survey online among a 50,000+ member panel

About RAC

  • With around seven million members, RAC is one of the UK's most progressive motoring organizations, providing services for both private and business motorists. Whether it's roadside assistance, windscreen repair and replacement, learning to drive, vehicle inspections and checks, legal and financial services or up-to-the-minute traffic and travel information - RAC is able to meet motorists' needs. RAC incorporates BSM, RAC Auto Windscreens, RAC Direct Insurance and HPI.
  • RAC is committed to providing the very highest levels of service to its members and has been ranked first for customer service by JD Power and Associates' UK Roadside Assistance Study for the past two years.
  • Aviva bought RAC in May 2005. The acquisition brings together RAC's powerful brand and customer base with the expertise and leading position in motor insurance of Norwich Union Insurance (part of Aviva). Norwich Union is the UK's largest insurer, insuring one in seven motor vehicles and with a market share of around 15 per cent.  
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