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Do you want to travel without vomit?
Nothing makes travel miserable like a vomiting child. Motion sickness in kids can make it difficult to take a family vacation.
A Road Trip with Kids can be challenging enough without factoring in a car sick toddler. Motion Sickness or Travel Sickness is not always reserved just for toddlers. It can very often, as in our case, carry on into preschool years or longer.
Having a child with car sickness has, on more than one occasion, interfered with our plans. It has put us in very tricky situations. And more than once has forced Dad onto the side of a busy interstate to clean the car seat, and baby. Luckily, without any sympathetic sickness from the other family members in the car.
Not to worry, in this post we outline everything we have learned about motion sickness. We include best tips and tricks for avoiding motion sickness, and how every parent can be prepared in case of any unexpected sickness.
Use the Table of Contents below to quickly skip to any section of this post.
Unexpected car sickness with our toddler
Our youngest daughter developed awful motion sickness in the car when she turned a year old. I remember the first time it happened. We were headed to see Santa on the Polar Express. She was dressed in her special Christmas outfit as we made the one-hour drive to the train depot. It was nap time, but she would not settle; I didn’t know why she was fussing so much.
That was the unfortunate day we began the journey of learning how to survive travel sickness in toddlers. We were pulled over on the side of the highway with a few napkins and baby wipes trying to figure out what to do so we didn’t miss our train ride to the “north pole”. I was frazzled and frustrated that I was so unprepared to deal with this situation.
What is Motion Sickness?
Motion sickness in kids usually starts with a queasy feeling (upset stomach), fatigue, loss of appetite and even a cold sweat which can progress to vomiting.
A young child may struggle to identify or describe this feeling of queasiness. A child will demonstrate their discomfort by becoming pale and restless, yawning, fussing or crying.
Travel Sickness can be extremely unsettling for both parent and child. It’s very unpredictable and seems to come on at the worst possible moments.
Causes of Car Sickness in Toddlers
Motion sickness is mysterious. Researchers and physicians don’t know why car sickness affects some children more than others.
Motion is sensed by the brain through different pathways of the nervous system including the inner ear, the eyes, and the tissues of the body surface. Motion sickness in kids is caused by repeated movement when traveling.
The symptoms of motion sickness appear when the central nervous system receives conflicting messages from the sensory systems: the inner ear, eyes, skin pressure receptors, and the muscle and joint sensory receptors.
The inner ear sends different signals to the brain from what the eyes are seeing. These confusing messages between the senses cause the child to feel unwell.
The distressing symptoms of motion sickness usually stop when the motion causing it ceases. In the meantime, parents need to know the best ways to travel as a family and prevent their child from turning green!
When it comes to motion sickness, don’t tough – it – out – treat it. There are many approaches for treating motion sickness in children.
How to Ease Motion Sickness in Children
- Look straight ahead outside the car, through the front windshield instead of through the side windows.
- Focus on a distant fixed point, such as the horizon.
- Open the car window to get fresh air.
- Distract children by talking or singing songs.
- Have your child close their eyes and listen to relaxing music.
- Encourage your child to take a nap. Closing their eyes resolves the input conflict between their eyes and inner ear.
- Break up your journey by making stops to get some fresh air, drink water or take a walk.
- Do not read while riding in the car.
- Put down electronic devices – do not play video games or watch movies. When the eyes are focused a few feet away this sends a signal of stillness to the brain, but the inner ear picks up on motion in the car, these mixed signals to the brain can cause nausea.
- Avoid heavy meals and greasy, rich, spicy foods. Stick to bland foods before and during your car ride such as crackers and water.
If your child is still experiencing travel sickness, then there are some natural remedies I like to use.
Natural Treatment for Motion Sickness in Kids
- Ginger – research shows that ginger is an effective treatment for motion sickness.
- Essential Oils – scents such as peppermint or lavender may be helpful as anti-nausea agents.
- Acupressure – Seabands for children and other brands of acupressure wristbands are inexpensive and low-risk treatment for motion sickness.
Research on the effectiveness of acupressure for preventing motion sickness does not show clear benefit – some people find significant relief with acupressure, others little or none. So, if it’s working for you or your child, we say go for it.
It’s worth trying these different strategies in pursuit of comfort. If your child is still struggling, then talk to your pediatrician about medication options to prevent motion sickness. Occasionally a child’s vomiting may be due to a viral illness, food poisoning, or the “stomach flu.” If you are concerned about your child, then seek medical advice.
Common Medicines for Motion Sickness
We typically avoid medicines unless it is absolutely necessary. Even over the counter medicines are a last resort for us. However, we know not all families prescribe to this philosophy, and that’s OK. We encourage every family to do what works best for them. Life is not always a one size fits all. We have included information that we curated about over the counter medicines as well.
We are not doctors, nor do we pretend to be. Please always check with your family doctor before giving your children medication. Also, test any medication before your travels as each child can react differently to medicines, even over the counter. The worst time to find out your child is allergic to a medicine is when you are headed out on a family vacation.
Over the counter medicines for motion sickness:
- Dramamine for Kids or Gravol Kids – both Dramamine and Gravol contain Dimenhydrinate. It is approved for kids 2 and older and is commonly used to treat and prevent motion sickness in children.
- Bonine Chewable Tablets – contains Meclizine Hydrochloride, an antiemetic. An anti-nausea medicine commonly used to treat and prevent motion sickness, sea sickness and airsickness. It is approved for use by adults and children 12 and up.
- Benadryl – also contains the Antihistamine Diphenhydramine. It is approved for kids 6 and older and may also prevent symptoms of Motion Sickness in Kids. Non-drowsy antihistamines don’t appear to be effective at treating motion sickness.
Teach your child to recognize the signs of Motion Sickness
Toddlers as young as 2 or 3 will tell you when they feel sick. It helps to talk about it ahead of time and encourage your children to tell you as soon as they start to feel sick.
You can sometimes pick up on signs. Our daughter gets unusually whiny when she starts to feel sick. After a few times we started to realize that was a sign of motion sickness in our child. How was your child acting just before they got sick? Note any unusual behavior in your child just before they were sick to create mental cues for you.
Be Prepared to Clean Up Messes
In the meantime, being prepared to clean up these messes in the car will make your journey more bearable. I’ve lost count of the number of times we had to clean the car seat! Now I always keep a Travel Car Clean-up Kit in the car.
Our family cannot leave the smell of vomit in a car seat, it is imperative to get it cleaned up as soon as possible. Especially in the summer when it is hot enough to set off a chain reaction of sickness in the car from other family members.
**Travel Car Clean-Up Kit**
In our vehicle we always have our Travel Car Clean-up Kit which includes:
- Several towels (hand and bath towel size)
- Paper Towels
- Kids N Pets Odor Remover Spray
- Baby Wipes
- Hand Sanitizer
- Plastic Trash Bags
- Changes of clothes for child(ren)
You may consider using a waterproof seat liner to protect your car seat. Britax has the Seat Saver Waterproof Liner that is approved for use with Britax seats only. We love our Britax Boulevard ClickTight Convertible Car Seat for our toddler, but there is nothing worse than cleaning a soiled car seat on the side of the road. Spray your seat with fabric protector and waterproofing spray.
Learn to identify your child’s signs of fussing before they get sick in the car. If they can tell you they feel sick, then make sure you have a towel within arm’s reach. I use a large bath towel tucked under my daughter’s chin to cover her body, which helps protect her clothes and the car seat if she gets sick. I keep these towels folded under her seat so I can easily reach back and pass her a towel when needed.
Having these supplies on hand will make clean-up a lot easier. Being able to clean the car-seat will help make the sick child more comfortable. If you end up on the side of the road, or in an empty parking lot, you will be glad you planned ahead. Read our post about how to get your car ready for your next road trip.
Being prepared to handle motion sickness will make travel less stressful
The good news is that most children tend to outgrow their car sickness by the time they are 12 years old. In the meantime these strategies will help as you travel with a child. For more ideas check out our post about Tips and Tricks to Simplify Road Trips with Kids or traveling with a potty training toddler. Or learn about our Strategies to Stay Healthy while Traveling with Children.
Our daughter is a long way from 12 years old, so we don’t know if she will grow out of her motion sickness. However, we have successfully used all the tips and tricks above to ease the severity of the sickness. Due to our experience with travel sickness over the years we are more prepared for the dreaded occurrence than ever before. Even her sibling springs into action when we hear her say… “I… feel… sick…”
We hope this post will bring you more peace on your family travels. And remember let’s BE Family so you can enjoy the journey.
Until next time,
Doug & Ruth 💕
BE Family Travel
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