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4 Tips for Getting Through the School Year With Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome

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My illness, cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS), like many other invisible illnesses, comes and goes. Periods of wellness for me would sometimes last for nearly a year. Because of this, and really wanting to be healthy, diagnosing this disease was lengthy and difficult. Finally, after a diagnosis, I realized that many of the challenges I experienced in school were, if not completely caused by, somehow related to my invisible illness.

A student with cyclic vomiting syndrome may encounter many misunderstandings with his or her peers if this disorder is not properly communicated. Because this illness is invisible, it’s difficult for healthy people to understand that an adult or a child might be at a disadvantage because of this disease. I’ve compiled a list of ways to avoid awkward situations where a classroom peers may try engage with you in conflict because of a misunderstanding or a teacher may mistakenly give you a bad grade because they simply don’t understand invisible illnesses.

1. Educate the classroom on this disorder.

If you’re the parent of a child with CVS, when you drop off your child for their first day of class, make sure your teacher at least knows the student may have a lot of absences. Someone with CVS doesn’t often show up for class when they are sick — especially on the first day. For me, the first day of school was always filled with hope for the year. I wish I realized on the first day of class that the year ahead would likely be filled with unexplained lengthy absences and hours on the weekends trying to play catch-up. They need to know the potential for absences is there so they can prepare and not mislabel you or your child as “flaky” or “unreliable.”

2. Know the signs.

Although invisible, CVS still has its own set of symptoms and predictors that help foresee when an episode may begin. A CVS episode means experiencing extreme bouts of vomiting that may last days if not weeks if left untreated. A person about to begin an episode will usually look pale and sweaty right before an episode starts. Additionally, a person with this illness will often begin to act listless and become weaker.

3. Consider working ahead.

Between episodes, a person with CVS might consider studying more and working ahead so that when episodes strike, they’ll be prepared.

4. Communicate with the teacher.

I’m pretty positive that many of my past peers and teachers still view me as someone who skipped a lot of class to go to the mall. There’s nothing to be done about that label other than move on and educate people on invisible illnesses. This is where my past mistakes can be used to help prevent others from experiencing what I did. Tests will missed. Assignments will be turned in late. Don’t do what I did and accept an inferior grade or withdrawal from the class. Get your diagnosis results from your gastroenterologist, make sure your teacher sees it and plan on taking your tests on a make-up day.

CVS has been linked to stress, so just when you think you’re ready and about to take the test, bam! CVS is right around the corner and will knock you to the ground. Then you’re dealing with CVS and the stress of getting a good grade.

These are some of my tips to avoid a CVS episode:

  • CVS is linked to stress. Try to avoid it, but if you can’t do that, take a class on meditation or find a physical therapy office that does biofeedback.
  • Don’t go hungry. Fasting may trigger a CVS episode. Carrying snacks with you to avoid hunger may help.
  • Consider dissolvable nausea medication. When I first started being treated for CVS, they were using suppositories. Thankfully, you can now get a prescription for nausea medication that you don’t have to swallow and you don’t have to…well…you know.

For more information about cyclic vomiting syndrome visit or my blog,

Image via Thinkstock Images

Originally published: August 10, 2016
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