Childhood Car Sickness: Prevention and Preparation
The day we turned my boy around to face forward was the day before his second birthday. We were down in Salt Lake City for the day (about two hours away from our house) and his first-ever ride facing forward was in his brand new birthday present, his fresh-out-of-the-box convertible car seat. Yes, he was in an infant car seat up until that point; to read more about that large error on my part, click here.
On this same day, on the trek back home to Northern Utah, my boy got very car sick. Welcome to the family, car seat! It was pretty apparent that he didn’t feel very well after the initial excitement wore off from being turned around and in a big boy car seat, but I definitely wasn’t expecting him to throw up! Sadly, this was the first of many, many car-sickness incidents. But the good news is that it no longer catches me by surprise! And I’ve learned a few tricks in the past two years.
Limiting electronics. On longer trips, I usually make him take a break every few minutes to make sure he reorients himself to his surroundings before continuing for another small chunk of time. On shorter trips, like running errands around town, I don’t allow him to use any electronics because there’s enough turning and stopping and going that it makes it a bit worse.
Light meals before and during travel. I think this one is pretty self explanatory, but it’s hard on long trips! Limiting the amount he eats in the car has been helpful in the past.
Fresh air. This is a fantastic distraction for my boy! If he tells me he doesn’t feel good, I’ll blast the air or roll down his window for some distracting, fresh air.
Pressure points. We call this “pushing his buttons”. I’ll take his hand and push not only on some pressure points in his wrist and hand, but everywhere. This helps with nausea and is also a good distraction. He’s gotten to the point now where he’ll even push his own buttons to help himself feel better.
Driving at night or when he’ll sleep. Obviously this isn’t something that I always have control over. I honestly can’t remember a time he’s thrown up while we’ve driven in the dark. And when I can plan portions or all of the driving during a time that I know he’ll fall asleep, it’s a pretty good bet that he wont get sick. Sadly, the older he gets, the less I can count on this trick.
Medicine. Holy cow, do we love children’s Dramamine! We didn’t resort to medication for quite a long time, and were sure to get his pediatrician’s approval beforehand, but it’s been a game changer ever since. It took a little playing around with in the beginning: taking a full tablet knocked him out (like for hours and hours), so that wasn’t super practical. Taking a half pill made him super sleepy and incredibly grumpy, but didn’t always make him sleep, making for a pretty miserable car ride. Nowadays, we stick to a quarter of a tablet. He still gets grumpy as it kicks in, but we know to plan on that and it’s still enough of a dose that he doesn’t get car sick! The best part about this is it lasts up to eight hours; so one pack lasts us several months!
Knowing the roads. Basically, if there’s a canyon involved in our driving, it's almost a guarantee that he’s going to get sick. So I plan accordingly and pull out all of the stops when twisting, winding roads are in store.
The right equipment. Our car has a spit bowl, towels, wipes, and tissues stocked at all times. I keep this stuff hidden under the passenger seat: close enough for me to grab it for him at all times, but tucked under enough that he doesn’t see it all and get freaked out! There is also a water bottle stashed with this stuff in order for me to get one of the towels wet to aid with cleanup.
Right mindset. The first few times my boy threw up in the car were pure chaos; to the point that it was 100% not safe to be driving on a road surrounded by other cars because of the state we were in. Now that we’ve got items prepared, and we’ve dealt with it a few times, it has become almost a series of steps calmly taken until we get to the point where we can pull over safely.
Know surroundings part 1. Speaking of pulling over... as if there’s not enough to keep track of already while driving, I’m constantly thinking about where I’d pull over if he were to get sick – an “escape route” of sorts is always on my mind.
Know surroundings part 2. When we’re in a different car and my usual stash isn’t available, I’m good at finding objects (cups, bags, chicken nugget containers, etc.) to use for catching so that I don’t resort to using my hands. Because once that happens, I’m of no use since I can no longer use my hands for anything else. Sorry, that got real gross real fast.