Tips for Preventing Car Sickness + Dealing with the Vomit Mess When it is Inevitable

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When my son was 14 month he started getting car sick and vomiting every time that we were in the car for more than an hour.  I got tips from a lot of mom friends and some of these tips helped a bit, others helped with limiting the mess when vomit was inevitable.  After a couple of months I found a solution that works like a charm (our only vomiting incident in the past five months was when I forgot to use my tip)!

My trick works for me, and I share it below.  I don't know that it will work for everyone, so I'm sharing other tips that I've gathered from moms below too. 

My Trick to Preventing Car Sickness

Ginger!  In March, we spent a weekend at my in laws house.  On the way there my son vomited after about 20 minutes in the car.  That was a record low.  I was dreading the car ride home.  On my way  out the door I noticed some ginger on the counter.  I peeled a piece and fed some to my son and rubbed more around his face and mouth and on his nose (so he would continue to smell it).  I repeated this every 15-20 minutes and he was fine!  

Keeping fresh ginger on hand isn't always convenient, so I've switched to keeping a bottle of liquid ginger in our refrigerator.  

Before each trip, I transfer some to a small container or plastic medical syringe (the type that comes with antibiotics) and bring it with us.  

The ginger is meant to be refrigerated, so I keep it in a cooler.  This is the same cooler that I recommend in my system for pumping at work without needing a refrigerator.  You can find that blog post here

My son protested at first but the taste of ginger has grown on him and now he asks for more!

I had heard that some people use ginger to combat nausea after chemo or during pregnancy, which is what gave me the idea.  So if you are pregnant, it is worth a try to combat morning sickness too!

Other Tips for Preventing Car Sickness

Here are more prevention tips, some of which I've tried.

The Mayo Clinic offers these five tips on its website:

  1. Reduce sensory input by encouraging your child to look outside the car instead of at books, movies, etc.  

    My son is rear facing in his car seat, so I removed the headrest behind his seat to encourage him to look outside and he still vomited.  

  2. Carefully plan pre-trip meals.  

    I've heard moms say not to give any food at all, or specifically to avoid milk, for an hour or two before getting in the car.  This didn't help for us.

  3. Provide air ventilation

    We opened the windows and still ended up covered in vomit.

  4. Offer distractions

    My son and I were singing songs and he was smiling until seconds before he vomited, so this wasn't effective for us.  

  5. Use medication if advised by your doctor (such as Dramamine for children over two and Benadryl for children over six). 

    I know of friends who use Benadryl starting at age two with doctor's permission.  They say that it is effective but they end up with a sleepy or cranky baby and titrating the dosage and timing it can be tricky.  It can wear off too soon or you can end up with a sleeping or cranky child at your destination.

    Medication may be appropriate for some, but I would use it only as a last resort.

More Anecdotal Tips from Other Moms

  • Quease Ease contains ginger and other herbs and is a bit less messy (though more expensive) than my method.  
  • A lot of moms swear by Sea Bands acupressure bands

Steps to Limit the Mess if Vomit is Inevitable (or Reasonably Likely)

If vomit is inevitable, be prepared to limit the mess.  It's gross, but true love is having vomit all over your hands and stuck in the crevices of your rings and just focusing on your child!  

  • Pay attention to the signs.  My son usually coughs or gags just before, others say that their child cries.  
  • When the signs present, grab a Chux pad, paper towels, diaper or whatever you have nearby to catch the vomit.  One mom recommended keeping a pitcher in the car to catch the vomit.  
  • Have your child wear a smock or bib over the car seat straps
    • Make sure that it is absorbent so the vomit doesn't just roll off.  
    • One mom suggested cutting a hole in an old baby blanket or towel to turn it into a poncho.
    • This would make my son hot, which can increase motion sickness, so I usually just put a drool bib on him and watch him like a hawk to catch any vomit.

 

  • Keep a change of clothes in the car (I like to organize clean and dirty clothes in the bags detailed in this blog post)
  • Try to time rides for nap time (this doesn't work for me as my son doesn't really sleep in the car)
  • Try not to let your annoyance show as it can make a child more upset or even feel guilty. 

 

Tips for Cleaning Up Vomit from the Car Seat

See prior section for items to have on hand to catch the vomit and seal it away.  

Cleaning the Car Seat

Certain soaps and detergents can compromise the integrity of car seat straps, so get familiar with your car seat manual to see how to clean it.  I believe that gentle soap, and baby wipes are generally fine, but check your manual. And the faster you do it the easier it will be to clean and get odors out.  Using Febreeze seems like a great solution but is probably not safe/approved. 

The first time that my son vomited, we were on our way to the airport to Grenada and it somehow didn't make much of a mess.  He vomited multiple times on our one major day trip in Grenada and it got everywhere.  We were using this car seat, which is great for travel.  Removing the fabric was super easy.  I took the fabric off entirely and washed it with dish soap and a rag and hung it up to dry.  

Within a few weeks after my son's first vomiting incident, he vomited in a borrowed car seat on a trip to Florida (note we borrowed from a friend and knew the seat's history). I ran into a store and  bought floss picks (for the crevices of the buckle),  a nail brush, seltzer, and baby wipes.  I worked at it for a good half hour and got it all out.  

Cleaning Clothing, Bibs, Blankets, Etc.

I swear by this stain and odor remover.  It is enzyme-based, so it is especially good at getting rid of stains and smells from "organic" matter like vomit and poop.  I've been using it pretty much daily for a year and a half.  

For more natural and eco-friendly products that I use regularly, click here.  

I even spray it on my son's lovies, which he puts in his mouth.

Having a car sick child can really put a damper on family travel.  I'm so glad to have figured out my trick, otherwise I don't think we would be getting out of the city at all!  If I missed any good tips, or if you found mine helpful, please let me know in the comments!