My Clubhouse Kid: Motion Sickness

"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page."                                                                                                   -St. Augustine

Sounds lovely, doesn't it?

Tell it to a Mother who gets puked on every time she turns the page.

First time it happened my son was 18 months old, and I thought it had something to do with what he had had for lunch that day. Second time, I thought maybe the milk he drank was bad. Third time, while I was pulling over to start cleaning us all up again, it dawned on me. This was happening every time we drove out of our small town. Which meant any car ride over 20-25 minutes. Which meant, he was "carsick".

I found out a week later after an episode on a quick flight to California, that "carsick" wasn't quite going to cover it.

Motion sickness.

In the simplest terms (I did a lot of research), motion sickness happens when the inner ear detects motion but the brain isn't getting the same message. Am I moving? Am I still? Suddenly equilibrium is thrown off by the confusion, and dizziness, nausea and vomiting may occur. 

How could a child in a vehicle not know they're moving? Probably because they're focused on something else entirely. Which is where this list begins. 

Ten Tips on Traveling With a Child Who Experiences 
Motion Sickness

1.) Turn the screens off. While focusing on the movie they're watching and/or game they're playing they are not focusing on the motion around them. Suddenly they look up from what they were focused on, see the world passing through the window, and the confusion sets in. (There is a more medical way to explain it, I'm being basic.) Just turning screens off isn't enough though...

2.) Close the books too. Just about eliminates any form of road trip distractions for your little one, yes, but when you're dealing with motion sickness, that's the point. There really can be no distractions from the movement. You want their focus to be on what is happening around them, so...

3.) Look out the windows, and encourage them to do the same. "Do you see that white truck over there?", "How many red cars are in front of us?", "Is that van going faster than us?", you get my point. Keeping them looking at what's around them allows their eyes to detect the same motion their inner ear is detecting. Body feels the motion, eyes see the motion, eyes tell brain, everyone is on the same page. Score!

For many, I Spy is the perfect game to play on the road. Go for it. Have a list, and spy away! For us, I Spy doesn't always work. Especially when the view looks like this most of the trip...

I spy a cactus. I spyyyy, another cactus. Ooh look, a cactus! See my dilemma?

So, we have made up a variety of our own games. 

My son's current favorite is "That's Wacky!!"

"Momma, I see a cactus running from a duck, look!!"

I have never seen a cactus run from anything, but if he's looking out of the window, being silly, having fun, and not throwing up, then I will see 3 more ducks chasing that cactus and I will laugh out loud and exclaim "That's wacky!!"

4.) Open the windows. Even just a crack, and even just for a few minutes. Fresh air is a good thing. 

5.) Take breaks to get out and get some of that fresh air. Stop at those rest stops, let them walk around a little.

6.) Keep any snacks and beverages light. Avoid, if you can, milk. Not only because it's not the nicest thing to have to clean up from your windshield, but because clear liquids are better at minimizing stomach upset. We have special snacks that are only for road trips, and a variety of what my son calls "my airplane treats", which he only gets when we fly. That way he doesn't see these "treats" as the bland crackers that they might very well be, he sees them as special snacks for traveling. Sometimes, it's all in the delivery ;)

7.) When you can, travel during naptime and sleeping hours. Now when we have to hop a quick flight to California, I try to plan it at the time of day I know he's ready for nap. He always sleeps on the plane that way, and a sleeping child is a good thing. Of course, when they wake up if you are still driving, or in flight, make sure you immediately let them look out of the window and talk to them about where you are in your travels.

All that being said, you should still always be prepared. 

Honestly, my heart broke for my baby boy when I would see him break out into a cold sweat and start vomiting. It's not easy to pull over and handle it all, especially when you're driving alone with your child. You want to comfort them, clean up, and in my case try not to vomit yourself... but you have to find a safe spot to pull over first. While you're looking for a spot, it may just be getting worse in the vehicle. Trust me, I've been there. Yanking the wheel in a frenzy to get to the side of the road doesn't help anyone though. Stay calm. Find that safe place to stop the vehicle, and remember that as soon as you take your child out of the vehicle, they will start to feel better.

8.) Keep a bag in the vehicle with a complete change of clothes, wipes, plastic bags to seal up soiled clothes in, and anything else you may need if you have to pull over and clean up. There were far too many times I was driving home with a toddler in a pull up because I didn't have a change of clothes. Now, he has complete wardrobe changes in the vehicle, and so do I because you know whoever is doing clean up ends up needing clean up of their own.

9.) Speaking of clean up, there is one thing in our vehicle that definitely makes that easier...

He picked it out, and he knows what it's for. In this picture (which was taken a few weeks ago during our most recent road trip) he was being silly. Usually it is next to his seat, ready if he needs it. Which means he has to know when he needs it...

10.) Know the signs! Suddenly he's too quiet, looks like he's in a daze, starts to shiver.. "Momma, I'm cold.." and then, well you know the rest. The signs were something we figured out over time, and I'm sure they're different for every child. You'll learn them quickly though, once your looking for them. Being keen to my son's signs has made it easier for me to pull over BEFORE he gets sick and simply take him out of the vehicle. Conversations with him about what he's feeling have been crucial as well. He has learned his own signs, and can communicate them to me. Then pulling over and letting him get some fresh air always has him feeling better within minutes, simply stopping the motion being what he needed to "reset".

Bonus Tip: When you have arrived at your destination successfully, get your child out of the car FIRST. I learned this one on a day when we finally made it to the Zoo without incident and while I was busy unloading the stuff, he started throwing up. The motion had stopped, but he was still adjusting. Now, I always take him out of the vehicle first. Stuff can wait. Yes, I also take him out every time we stop for gas on road trips. Leaving him sitting in the now stopped vehicle is no good for anyone (as you will soon read...)

Does any of this really work? It has worked for us. It has worked better than the motion sickness wrist bands and the smelly ginger concoction. Yes, I was desperate and tried everything. When I was really flustered, I even went with the pediatrician recommended medication, in half the suggested dose. He didn't throw up, but he was also a tired, cranky, groggy child who had no fun once we got to where we were going. So, we do it this way now. We talk for however many hours we are in the car while we look out the windows, and play silly games. We take breaks, drink only water, eat "special treats" and joke about the bucket.

Does that mean we never use the bucket anymore? No. We did use it one time on this most recent trip, after several incident free trips. Why? We stopped for gas and I didn't take him out of the vehicle. He grabbed the bucket himself and handled business. I could have slapped myself silly for forgetting my own tip, especially since I had been talking to my husband earlier that very day about writing this very post. My boy was fine though. I took him out, Daddy dumped and cleaned the bucket (no other clean up required thanks to that bucket), and we went for a walk. That was our only incident during the five hour drive we were on. When we arrived at our destination, he got to do this all weekend...

Which is why the trips are always worth it. Sure, they're not easy. You don't get to read for a few hours while your child watches a movie. No having them engaged in mobile devices while you listen to music and drive. There's more involved, and it can be a little exhausting sometimes, but what's the alternative? Staying home all Summer?

Motion sickness won't stop us from moving! 

So turn that page, and enjoy your travels this Summer. Just be ready to talk A LOT in the car, and bring a bucket ;)

Ms. Liz

Any remedies work for you that you would like to share, please do! 

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