Car Trips Don’t Always Look This Happy…
This morning as I was driving two offspring to their schools, my phone rang. The caller ID showed that it was another of the district schools calling. It is not generally good news when a school calls me during the daytime. Sure enough, one of the boys threw up on the bus. Thankfully, it was my child who is most prone suffering from motion sickness. He is chilling on the sofa and looking fine for the time being. So, my guess is that he got car sick and won’t be sharing the stomach flu with my family.
I have had three kids that have experienced yucky tummies from being in the car. My oldest went through a season of getting car sick when she was between one and two years old. Thankfully, she no longer battles it. My youngest gets sick from time to time, but my middle struggles consistently. Over the 13 years that we have battled sickness in the car, we have learned a few tricks to help prevent getting sick and a few to help with the mess.
When my oldest experienced motion sickness as a toddler, I was determined to problem solve ways to avoid tearing her car seat apart to clean vomit from all the cracks and crevices. Clean up generally began with a garden hose to get the worst, but it requires effort beyond that. Unless you want the smell of stomach upset to linger in your car, one must get to the insides of the seat. There is really no way to clean a car seat effectively beyond removing straps, cushions and covers, laundering them and then reassembling the seat. This process is time consuming and super unpleasant, so what if you could avoid the car seat clean up part altogether?
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Preventing Car Sickness
- Buy several sets of Sea Bands and then use them. These elastic bands have a small plastic nub that puts pressure on the Nei-Kuan acupressure point on each wrist. We lovingly referred to these as “bracelets” for our young daughter, and we put them on her every time she got in the car for a long period of time. My middle child keeps a pair in his backpack. We have them in the car and a set in my purse because they are so helpful. These can be worn as a preventative, but also are helpful in relieving symptoms after beginning to feel unwell. These are a must for theme parks or on boats. You can purchase child size or adult size Sea Bands at a variety of stores.
- Always take coats off in the car. In our experience, a child that gets too hot will be more prone to having an upset stomach in the car.
- Keep air vents pointed toward children who are prone to becoming motion sick. If a child starts to feel poorly, opening the windows to cool down the car may be helpful. This does not work as effectively during the summer or in a warmer climate. Cool air is best.
- Limit books or electronic devices in the car. Looking down increases the likelihood of stomach upset. We have found that audio books and earbuds can be helpful though. Our middle likes to close his eyes and focus on the stories.
- There are over the counter medications like Dramamine, that can be helpful as well, but personally, I tried to avoid medications if we are able to find another option.
- Try to position your child toward the front (meaning the middle row) of the vehicle if you have a van or SUV. The back of the automobile tends to be more stuffy and it is harder to focus eyesight on things in the distance in front of the child. Focusing on the horizon ahead is helpful in managing symptoms of motion sickness.
Containing the mess for independent kids
- We keep gallon sized storage bags in the seat pockets of every seat in our van. These are perfect for catching a mess and containing it and the smell until it can be thrown away. My middle child keeps gallon sized storage bags in his backpack as well. His bus driver was thrilled this morning that there was no vomit to clean up on the bus when he became sick.
Containing the mess for toddlers
- Car sick toddlers are a different game. First, they aren’t as able to warn parents of feeling unwell. You will become familiar with the moans that indicate a mess is imminent, but you may not be able to safely get off the road and out of the vehicle in time to assist a young child with an upset stomach.
- The easiest way to clean up vomit in the car is to have it as contained as possible. When our oldest was a toddler, our one income budget prompted me to get creative with my sewing machine. I constructed some removable inserts for her car seat. This did not, however, protect the straps or her clothing. So, I created a cape of sorts for her to wear backward. It was made from a lightweight sheet with a snap to fasten behind her neck. She could put her arms through it. It absorbed a lot of the mess on the occasion that her Sea Bands were not enough of an aid.
- An easier solution would be to buy an adult sized scrub jacket, similar to what can be found here, with a round neck collar. You can drape the light weight coat backward, over the child and whole car seat. Your child’s arms can go through the arms of the jacket. And, the neckline can snap loosely behind your child’s neck. Be certain check the fit around your child’s neck to assure that there is no suffocation hazard. Some liquid may seep through the fabric. If the fabric is too repellent, though, the liquid will end up on your upholstery rather than soaking into the cloak. The goal is to catch and contain as much of the mess as possible.
- You could also try a hairdresser’s cape that has arm access, which would work similarly. Again, if it is water repellent, the mess could slide down the cape and onto your upholstery, so be cautious with material choices.
- Have a clean up kit ready to be put to use. I used to a bag in the trunk that had a change of clothes, wet wipes, a towel and a few garbage bags at the ready in case of a need.