Childhood Vomiting and Nausea

Vomiting is when you throw up what is in your stomach. Nausea is when you feel like you’re going to throw up.

Here are some common causes of nausea and vomiting:

  • Viruses in the intestines (Your child can get diarrhea, too.)
    Morning sickness in pregnant teens
  • Motion sickness (getting “car sick” or “seasick” from travelling)
  • Some medicines
  • Spoiled food
  • Eating or drinking too much

Some serious problems cause vomiting, too. Here are some of them:

  • Appendicitis – when your child’s appendix is infected
  • Brain tumors
  • Meningitis
  • Stomach ulcers

Watch your child very closely if he or she is vomiting. Babies and small children can get dehydrated very fast. Dehydration is when your body doesn’t have enough water.

Your older child or teen may make themselves throw up. They may stick a finger down their throat or take ipecac syrup. This could be a sign of an eating problem like anorexia nervosa or bulimia.

Questions to Ask

Does your child have any of these problems along with the vomiting?
  • Stiff neck and headache
  • Black or bloody vomit
  • Very bad pain in and around one eye
  • Blurry eyesight
  • A head injury that happened a short time ago
Yes: Seek Care
Dehydration is when your body loses too much water. Does your child have two or more of these signs of dehydration?
  • Feeling confused
  • Dry diaper for more than 3 hours in a baby
  • No urine for 6 or more hours in a child
  • Sunken eyes
  • Crying with no tears
  • Dry skin and dry mouth
Yes: Seek Care
Does your child have very bad stomach pain? Does it last for more than 3 hours? Does it keep hurting even after your child throws up? Or is the vomit greenish-yellow?Yes: Seek Care
Does your child have 2 or more of these problems?
  • Fever
  • Pain below the waist
  • Passing urine very often or wetting the bed (if he or she didn’t before)
  • Pain when passing urine
  • Bad-smelling urine
Yes:See Doctor
Does the vomiting come after bad coughing?Yes:See Doctor
Is your child’s urine very dark? Is your child’s stool (solid waste) white?Yes:See Doctor
Is your older child or teen making him or herself throw up over and over? Has someone else told you that your child is doing this?Yes:See Doctor
Has your child been throwing up for more than 12 hours without getting better? In a small child, has the vomiting lasted 6 hours?Yes:Call Doctor
Is your child taking any medicine that doesn’t work if they throw up?Yes:Call Doctor

Self-Care Tips

  • Be calm and loving. Throwing up can scare a child.
  • Keep a bowl or basin near your child. Hold your hand against their forehead when they vomit.
  • Give your child water to rinse their mouth out after they throw up. Sponge his or her face.
  • Take away dirty clothes or bedding. Change to clean ones.
  • Don’t smoke near your child.
  • Don’t feed your child solid food until they stop throwing up.
  • Give your child clear liquids at room temperature (not too cold or too hot). Here are some examples:
    • Water (This is best.)
    • Pedialyte, Lytren or other mixtures for babies
    • Lemon-lime soda or ginger-ale for older children. Warm the soda on the stove or in microwave until the fizz is gone. Then cool it or, just stir it until the fizz is gone.

  • Start with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of liquid every 10 minutes for babies. Start with 1 to 2 ounces every 15 minutes for children. Give twice as much each hour after the vomiting stops. If your child is still vomiting, give small amounts every hour.
  • Slowly give your child more and more clear liquids. Don’t make your child drink when he or she doesn’t want anything.
  • If you are breastfeeding:
    • Give your baby Pedialyte, Lytren, or some other baby mixture if the baby throws up 3 or more times.
    • Go back to nursing when your baby has gone 4 hours without vomiting. But feed less. Do only one side, and only for about 10 minutes.
    • Go back to nursing on both sides after 8 hours of no vomiting. But feed your baby less than usual for about 8 hours.

  • After your child stops throwing up, you can go from clear liquid foods like Jell-O (any color but red) and broth to liquids like milk. Try soft foods after that. Get them back on their usual food within 24 hours.
  • Don’t give your child over-the-counter medicine unless the doctor tells you to.

Call the doctor if your child doesn’t get better, or if the vomiting comes back.

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021