Vomiting In Children

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

  • Vomiting is very common in children. Vomiting causes food and liquid to come up from the stomach and out of the mouth or nose. Vomiting can cause your child to lose too much fluid and salt from his body. This is called dehydration. Dehydration can be a dangerous condition for your child. When a child is dehydrated, his body and organs such as the heart may not work normally. You can help prevent your child from becoming dehydrated by giving him enough liquids to replace vomited fluid. It is important to call your child's caregiver if you think your child is becoming dehydrated.

  • There are many causes of vomiting. A common cause in children over one year old is gastroenteritis, or the "stomach flu". The stomach flu is caused by germs that infect the lining of the stomach and intestines. Other causes of vomiting are problems with the muscles surrounding your baby's stomach. These problems may be called pyloric stenosis or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Your child may also have vomiting because of food poisoning, infections in other body organs, or a head injury. Sometimes, the cause of your child's vomiting is unknown.
Picture of the digestive system of a child

AFTER YOU LEAVE:

Medicines:

  • Keep a current list of your child's medicines: Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list and the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency. Throw away old medicine lists. Give vitamins, herbs, or food supplements only as directed.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed: Call your child's primary healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him if your child is allergic to any medicine. Ask before you change or stop giving your child his medicines.

  • Do not give your child any over-the-counter (OTC) medicines for his vomiting unless his caregiver tells you to. If you are told to give your child a medicine, follow the caregiver's instructions carefully.

How can I take care of my child at home?

  • Help your child to rest until he feels better.

  • Call your child's caregiver if your child shows signs of dehydration.

    • A baby may be dehydrated if he wets five or less diapers during a 24 hour time period. A dehydrated baby may have a dry mouth and cracked lips, and may cry with few or no tears. A baby with worsening dehydration may act sleepier, weaker, or fussier than usual. The baby's eyes and soft spot on top of his head may be sunken if he is dehydrated. He may also have wrinkled skin, and pale hands and feet.

    • A child may be dehydrated if he has a dry mouth, cracked lips, cries without tears, or is dizzy. A dehydrated child may be sleepier, fussier, and weaker than usual. He may be very thirsty and will urinate less often than usual.

  • Give your child plenty of liquids.

    • The best way to prevent dehydration is to give your child plenty of fluids, even if he is still occasionally vomiting. The best fluids to give your child contain a mixture of salt, sugar, minerals, and nutrients in water. These are called oral rehydration solutions (ORS). Many brands are available at grocery stores. Ask your child's caregiver which brand you should buy.

    • Give your baby 1 to 2 teaspoons of ORS every five minutes. Older children can begin with small sips of ORS often. Use a spoon, syringe, cup, or bottle to feed ORS to your child. If your child does not vomit the ORS, slowly give your child more ORS. Encourage but do not force your child to drink.

    • Continue giving your baby formula or breast milk throughout his illness, or follow his caregiver's instructions. Your child can start eating foods when he is ready. Start slowly with bland food such as cooked cereal, rice, noodles, bananas, crackers, applesauce, or toast. If he does not have problems with soft, bland foods, slowly begin to serve him regular foods.

  • Put your baby or young child on his stomach or side whenever he is lying down. This may stop him from breathing vomit into his airways and lungs.

  • Save your extra breast milk. If you are breast feeding your child, keep offering him breast milk. If your child is drinking less than usual, pump your breasts after feedings. Store the extra milk in the freezer so that your child can drink it later. Ask your child's caregiver for information about pumping, storing, and freezing your breast milk.

  • Wash your and your child's hands often with soap and warm water. Handwashing may help you and your child to prevent spreading germs to others. Wash your hands after changing diapers and before fixing food. Your child and all family members should wash their hands before touching food and eating. Everyone should wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

CONTACT A CAREGIVER IF:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child's vomiting is getting worse.

  • Your child will not drink the rehydration fluid or keeps vomiting up the ORS.

  • Your baby has projectile vomiting (forceful bursts of vomit) after a feeding.

  • You have a baby less than four months old who has vomiting that is different than regular spitting up.

  • You have any questions or concerns about feeding or caring for your child while he is sick.

SEEK CARE IMMEDIATELY IF:

  • Your child keeps vomiting up all liquids that you give to him.

  • You think your baby or child is dehydrated.

  • Your child's vomit has blood or material that looks like coffee grounds in it.

  • Your child is acting very different than normal or looks very sick.

  • You think your child ate or drank a poisonous food, plant, or substance.

  • Your child is not thinking clearly, has a stiff neck, or very bad headache.

  • Your child has bad abdominal pain that does not feel better after vomiting.

  • Your child has painful urination.

  • Your child has problems breathing.

© 2012 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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