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Acute Nausea and Vomiting in Children


What causes acute nausea and vomiting in children?

Some children, including babies, vomit for unknown reasons. The following are the most common causes of vomiting in children:

  • Infections of the stomach, intestines, ear, urinary tract, lungs, or appendix
  • Digestive problems from gastroesophageal reflux, a blockage in the digestive system, or pyloric stenosis (narrowing of the opening between the stomach and intestines) in infants
  • Food allergies, overfeeding, or improper position while feeding in infants
  • Poisonous chemicals or substances swallowed by your child
  • Concussion or migraines
  • Bulimia in adolescents

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. The provider will ask when the vomiting started, and when and how often he or she vomits. The provider will also ask if your child has any other symptoms. Tell the provider if your child recently hit his or her head. Your child may need the following tests:

  • Blood or urine tests may show an infection.
  • An abdominal x-ray, ultrasound, or CT may be needed to find the cause of your child's vomiting. Your child may be given contrast liquid to help the digestive problem show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid.

How is acute nausea and vomiting treated?

Vomiting may go away on its own without treatment. The cause of your child's vomiting may need to be treated. Older children may be given antinausea medicine to prevent nausea and vomiting. An important goal of treatment is to make sure your child does not become dehydrated. Your child may be admitted to the hospital if he or she develops severe dehydration.

  • Give your child liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid your child should drink each day and which liquids are best. Children under 1 year old should continue drinking breast milk and formula. Your child's healthcare provider may recommend a clear liquid diet for children older than 1 year old. Examples of clear liquids include water, diluted juice, broth, and gelatin.
  • Give your child oral rehydration solution (ORS) as directed. ORS contains water, salts, and sugar that are needed to replace lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to give your child, and where to get it.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • Your child has a seizure.
  • Your child's vomit contains blood or bile (green substance), or it looks like it has coffee grounds in it.
  • Your child is irritable and has a stiff neck and headache.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain.
  • Your child says it hurts to urinate, or cries when he urinates.
  • Your child does not have energy, and is hard to wake up.
  • Your child has signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth, crying without tears, or urinating less than usual.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

  • Your baby has projectile (forceful, shooting) vomiting after a feeding.
  • Your child's fever increases or does not improve.
  • Your child begins to vomit more frequently.
  • Your child cannot keep any fluids down.
  • Your child's abdomen is hard and bloated.
  • 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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