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Acute Nausea and Vomiting in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 4, 2023.

What does acute mean?

Acute means the nausea and vomiting starts suddenly, gets worse quickly, and lasts a short time.

What are some common causes of acute nausea and vomiting in children?

  • Viral infection of the stomach or intestines
  • Appendicitis, a stomach ulcer, or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Food allergies
  • Acid reflux or a blockage in the digestive system
  • Dangerous chemicals or substances swallowed by your child
  • A concussion or migraine
  • An eating disorder, such as bulimia

What other signs and symptoms may my child have?

  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness

How is the cause of acute nausea and vomiting diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will examine your child and ask about his or her symptoms. Tell your child's provider if the vomiting was before, during, or after a meal. He or she may ask what medicines your child takes, including over-the-counter medicines. Your child may need blood tests to check for infection or inflammation.

How is acute nausea and vomiting treated?

Vomiting may go away on its own. The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration. Treatment also depends on the cause of the nausea and vomiting. Any medical condition causing your child's nausea and vomiting will also be treated. Your child may be admitted to the hospital if he or she develops severe dehydration.

What can I do to manage my child's symptoms?

  • Help your child rest as much as possible. Too much activity can make your child's nausea worse.
  • Give your child liquids as directed to prevent dehydration. Remind him or her to take small sips. Try drinks such as juice, soup, lemonade, water, or tea. Continue to give your child breast milk or formula, if that is their primary nutrition.
  • Give your child oral rehydration solution (ORS) as directed. ORS contains water, salts, and sugar that are needed to replace the lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to give your child, and where to get it.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child is irritable and has a stiff neck and headache.
  • Your child does not have energy, and is hard to wake up.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You see blood or material that looks like coffee grounds in your child's vomit.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child is urinating very little or not at all.
  • Your child has signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth or crying without tears.

When should I call my child's doctor?

  • Your child is 2 years old or younger and has been vomiting for 24 hours.
  • Your infant has been vomiting for 12 hours.
  • Your baby has projectile (forceful, shooting) vomiting after a feeding.
  • Your child's fever increases or does not improve.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.