What to do if your toddler suddenly gets carsick on a road trip

What to do if your toddler suddenly gets carsick on a road trip

My 17 month old gets carsick. At first, I thought it was a fluke. Z got carsick for the first time while driving through windy, hilly, one-lane, mountain roads of North Carolina. I was having bouts of motion sickness as the driver, so I wasn’t entirely surprised when he got sick halfway through the trip.

But on a recent 9 hour drive to Florida, where the roads are straight and flat, my toddler got carsick on two separate occasions hours apart. The first, completely my fault because I passed him the iPad preloaded with Elmo and Sesame Street kid’s games hoping to occupy him for a little. Not even five minutes later and I realized how terrible of  a decision that was.

The second time though, we were an hour from our final destination and the cruise control was on. I don’t know what triggered the motion sickness episode, but it was a doozy. It took a good 35 minutes to “clean up” and after an already exhausting trip, I was beat.

So here’s what to do if your toddler suddenly gets carsick on a road trip:

  1. Make sure your toddler is safe and breathing
    Ok, so there’s a really scary moment if you are traveling solo and your toddler gets carsick where you hear them gurgling, but not talking or crying. It’s a horrifying sound, but don’t panic. It helps if you have a car seat mirror installed so you can get a view of them without swerving off the road. But if you can’t see them, pull over safely and quickly to make sure your little is ok.
  2. Find a safe place to stop
    You may have pulled over on the nearest side of the road to check on their safety, but that’s not a safe place to remain stopped for any length of time. Once you know your baby is ok, get back on the road and pull off at the nearest rest area, gas station or convenience store.
  3. Strip them and get their feet on the ground
    Grounding is a great way to get their brain’s messaging back in line with reality. Motion sickness is a result of your brain being confused: your body feels stationary, but your eyes see motion. And stripping them down to their skivvies, because, throw up. Throw up is everywhere and the only way to prevent it from being every other where is to get them clean first.car sick toddler
  4. Clean your toddler first
    Seriously. It needed it’s own line. Clean your baby’s face, legs, feet, brush their teeth even. Luckily you’ll have wipes handy as a mom of a toddler, but you need to get them as clean as possible. The smell /taste of vomit can cause repeat episodes. (For them, and maybe even you!)
  5. Clean the car seat the best you can
    This is where you’re going to be limited and where you need to get resourceful. You’ll need dry napkins or paper towels in addition to wet wipes. If you don’t have these handy, check out the rest area or gas station you’re stopped at for supplies. You’ll also need two garbage bags. One for the yuck and one for the carseat!
  6. Cover the car seat for the remainder of your trip
    Whether you use the garbage bag with holes ripped for the straps or you throw a blanket down, you’ll want to provide a barrier between your kid and the throw-up covered car seat for the rest of the drive. Had I done this after the first, relatively calm, round of motion sickness, I wouldn’t have had the mess I had the second time around.

The above tips are useful for the middle of the trip, unforeseeable events. But if your infant or toddler is prone to car sickness, you need to prepare in advance.

  • Keep feedings to a minimum and stick to dry starches, like crackers or bread. The more they eat, the more that’s going to come up.
  • Limit toys / games that require their little eyes to do a lot of work. This means no iPad, no DVDs, no books. Yes, that makes it tougher to entertain them, but it decreases the risks of an episode exponentially.
  • Consider forward facing just for the trip. I know, I know. Rear facing is recommended for as long as possible, and there is no hard-fast proof that rear facing causes more car sickness than forward facing car seats. Given my extensive personal experience with motion sickness, though, I am considering the option.
  • Buy a “puking poncho” for long car rides. Yup, that’s exactly what it sounds like.
  • Talk to your pediatrician about an anti-nausea medication. Ondansetron and Emetrol are two commonly prescribed for motion sickness and nausea.


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