How to Deal With a Sick Kid on an Airplane
Our recent trip to Costa Rica included three different flights each way, and of course, the kids had to both get sick on the way home. Not just ‘a bit of a fever’ sick, but full on ‘puking up their toenails’ sick. We knew that Marcus, our (then) five year old, was ill, as he had vomited in the morning before we left for the airport. We’ve never experienced having a sick kid on an airplane, but we were able to manage Marcus fairly well, as we had a bag for him before we even made it on the plane. However, on the next morning’s flight, Trevor and I were busy keeping a hawk-eye on Marcus when three-year-old Jordie decided to throw up (with no warning) all over her entire row, hosing down two of our other travel companions.
Having a kid puke all over you on a plane is a great argument for always having a complete (including socks) change of clothes for everybody in your carry-on. If you know your child is ill before you get on the plane, pack two changes of clothes, and put their jacket (and yours) somewhere out of the way, like in an overhead bin; don’t tuck it beside them in their seat, or under the seat in front, as you never know when your kiddo might miss the air sickness bag and spray everybody’s outerwear. Also, if you know (or think) your child might vomit on the flight, remove their shoes, or bring a spare pair, in case they aren’t quick enough with the baggie. Nothing sucks more than trying to get a sick kid from the airport to the hotel in -30 with no jacket or shoes. Trust me on this.
If your child vomits in an airsickness bag, don’t just hand the baggie of vomit to the flight attendant – warn them what is in the bag. People also use those baggies for regular garbage, so don’t assume the attendant knows what you’re giving them. He or she will want to get some gloves before handling the baggie, and may need to dispose of it in a different garbage container.
It is worth packing a couple of gallon-size ziplocs for airsick kids, who may not be dexterous (or fast) enough to hit the little opening of an airline sickness baggie. Just fold them up and tuck them somewhere accessible in your carry-on luggage. On one occasion, a stewardess gave us a medium-sized heavy garbage bag for a sick kid; this worked great. We just added a handful of napkins and some of their fancy-dancy absorbent/deodorant powder on top of each heave, and it lasted the whole flight without having to disturb the child; plus, the opening was big enough that she never missed. I don’t know what that powder was, exactly, but when I find out, I am going to add some to our carry-on – it was absolutely fantastic. I am not a sympathy puker, but I was glad not to subject everyone within six rows of us to the smell; it saved us a bit of embarrassment, and I’m certain it made the flight more pleasant for everyone near us.
We’ve found that it’s a good idea to have a small first aid kit in your carry on, as well as a larger first aid kit in your bag. We include gravol (motion sickness medication), acetaminophen, ibuprofen, immodium (anti-diarrhea tablets), bandaids, diaper wipes / wet wipes, and tissue / toilet paper. Of course, any prescription medication should also be in the carry-on. While we frequently use liquid medications at home, particularly for the pre-schooler, we found it much simpler to pack chewable tablets for most medications. Just make sure you have something tasty to wash them down with, as our kids objected more to the flavor, for some reason.
In the end, you hope you never have a kid throw up on a plane, but if you travel with kids a lot, it is probably inevitable that you will deal with vomit at 30,000 feet sooner or later. We’ve found that a little bit of planning and a few simple additions to the carry-on bags made it much easier to handle a sick kid on an airplane. Make sure you pack a change of clothes, and keep outerwear out of the line of fire, especially if you know your child has an upset tummy. Keep a small first aid / medication kit in your carry on, and be sure to include some basic medications for fevers and vomiting. Finally, pack a couple of medium-sized watertight bags, like gallon-sized ziplocs, to use in place of air sickness bags, and remember to always warn airline staff before handing them a baggie full of vomit.
Pin it for later: