The feeling of queasiness in the stomach, accompanied by an involuntary urge to vomit is known as nausea. Nausea is a common occurrence among children and adolescents (1) (2). It is not a disease but a complex symptom of different underlying conditions, which are often manageable at home.
Keep reading this MomJunction post to know about the causes of nausea among children, associated symptoms, home care tips, and more.
Associated Symptoms In Children
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sore throat
Home Remedies For Managing Nausea In Children
You may try the following tips at home to control your child’s nausea (5).
- Adequate intake of fluids or cold liquids to help ease nausea
- Give them light and bland food (plain bread or a cracker) with soft texture
- Avoid greasy, fried, sugary, or fatty foods
- Take rest after each meal
- People also use roasted/ grounded cumin seeds. You may simply ask your child to chew them or boil them in water and make them drink it.
If you suspect nausea to be a side effect of medication, then consult a doctor before stopping the use of the medicine.
[ Read: Motion Sickness In Children ]
How To Prevent Nausea In Children?
You may encourage your child to follow these preventive measures (5).
- Eat smaller meals throughout the day instead of a few bigger meals. Teach your child to eat slowly and chew their food properly.
- You may include high-fiber foods (whole grains and fruits with their skin) that are good for the digestive system and can also help prevent constipation
- Avoid any physical activity after a meal. Also, avoid brushing or cleaning the tongue immediately after the meal since it might induce nausea.
- In the case of motion sickness, you may make your child sit in the car facing the windshield. You can also avoid routes that induce motion sickness. Make them smell a lemon or chew some citrus food to get some relief.
[ Read: Food Allergy Symptoms In Kids ]
What Causes Nausea In Children?
Various conditions can trigger nausea. The following are the most common reasons for nausea among children and teens.
- Food poisoning: Bacteria, viruses, or parasites can enter the gastrointestinal tract through contaminated food and water. These infectious agents release toxins, which can cause food poisoning. A few examples of pathogens are salmonella, shigella, E. coli, and noroviruses. Common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever (6).
- Gastroenteritis: It is an inflammation of the intestinal lining caused by pathogens. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is a common type of gastroenteritis caused by noroviruses. Symptoms can include nausea, diarrhea, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, fever, and chills (7).
- Constipation: Constipation could sometimes cause nausea. For instance, a genetic ailment called hirschsprung disease causes chronic constipation due to the inability of the intestines to pass stool. A collateral effect of constipation is the development of nausea (8).
- Indigestion (overeating): Eating too much or too quickly might lead to indigestion. It can cause discomfort, nausea (with or without vomiting), burping, heartburn, or bloating (9).
- Stress: Emotional distress (anxiety, depression, or mental stress) can cause functional nausea (when no underlying condition has been identified) among children and adolescents. Other symptoms may include functional abdominal pain, pale skin (pallor), or fatigue (2).
[ Read: Anxiety In Children ]
- Reaction to certain foods, smells, or situations: Certain foods or strong smells can cause nausea or vomiting. Moreover, intolerance to certain food items such as dairy-based products (lactose intolerance) can cause nausea, bloating, or abdominal pain in children. Motion sickness also leads to nausea.
- Exposure to chemicals or toxins: Toxic substances or products that are used in day-to-day life such as fuel oil, alcohol, certain cosmetics, pesticides, and house-cleaning products can cause mild to serious toxicity in children. Some of the common symptoms of toxicity include nausea, vomiting, headache, skin and eye irritation, etc. (10).
- Medications: Drug-induced nausea is one of the most common side effects of medicines. Nausea and vomiting may also be induced due to chemotherapy or anesthetics given before surgery (11).
- Peptic ulcers: These sores or open wounds occur in the stomach or upper part of the small intestine. They are often caused by infection from Helicobacter pylori bacteria and characterized by nausea, sudden sharp abdominal pain, burping, hiccups, loss of appetite, and weight loss (12).
- Kidney stones: Kidney stones are a hard solid mass of minerals and elements formed within the kidney. Some of the common symptoms of the condition are severe pain in the back or the sides, nausea, and vomiting (13).
- Gallbladder disease: This condition occurs due to blockage of the bile duct, often as a result of gallstones. Early signs can include abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting, especially after eating a meal (14).
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): This condition occurs when the contents of the stomach come back (acid reflux) and irritate the food pipe or esophagus. Common symptoms may include nausea, heartburn, bad breath, and vomiting (15).
- Urinary tract infection: Urinary tract infections are more common among females than males. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, abdominal, or back pain, fever and chills, and pain or burning during urination (16).
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): This chronic problem affects the large intestine or colon. In IBS, the colon appears normal but does not function properly, leading to symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, abdominal cramping, bloating, and mucus in the stool (17).
- Viral hepatitis: Viral hepatitis is an inflammation of the liver and is associated with the consumption of contaminated food and water. Early symptoms could include fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain (18).
- Concussion: It is a mild traumatic injury to the brain because of a fall or a blow to the head. A few symptoms of concussion include headache, nausea, blurred vision, dizziness, and trouble walking (19).
- Migraine: Primary headache or migraine is under-diagnosed in children and adolescents. Along with headaches, the symptoms of migraine may include nausea, sensitivity to light, fatigue, and loss of appetite (20).
[ Read: Chest Pain In Children ]
When To Call A Doctor?
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe headache or stiff neck
- Reduced alertness
- Faster pulse or breathing
- Fever for more than a day
- Symptoms of dehydration
- Low urine output
- Blood in urine or stools or vomitus
Diagnosing The Cause Of Nausea In Children
Doctors do not specifically investigate nausea but the underlying condition or disease that led to nausea. The following steps and procedures are used for diagnosis (3).
- Physical examination of the abdomen or torso
- Examining the medical history of the child
- Blood, stool, and urine tests to detect pathogens
- CT scan or MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) of brain or abdomen depending on signs
- Colonoscopy to detect abnormalities in the large intestine and rectum
- Autonomic testing to observe the autonomic nervous system after brain trauma
- Ultrasound of the abdomen
- Upper GI endoscopy to look the insides of the esophagus, stomach, and upper part of the small intestine
- Gastrointestinal X-rays to check the presence of inflammation or blockages
[ Read: Bedwetting In Children ]
Treatment Of Nausea In Children
- Antimicrobials for the treatment of infectious diseases
- Anti-inflammatory medicines
- Antacids, H2 blockers, or proton-pump inhibitors for acid reflux
- Dietary changes in the case of IBS or food intolerance
- Antiemetic medications for motion sickness
- Medicines that control the flow of food through the stomach called prokinetics
- Medications for controlling nausea and vomiting in children after chemotherapy
- Behavioral therapy, antidepressants, or counseling sessions to relieve nausea due to distress
Parents are advised not to self-medicate children for nausea and vomiting but you may try some home remedies for mild and infrequent nausea.
[ Read: Night Sweats In Children ]
Nausea is a commonly reported discomfort among children. Most often, it goes away without medication. If your child has other symptoms as well and feels unwell, then consult a doctor promptly. Adequate precautions and good dietary habits can help in avoiding nausea.
Have something to share about nausea in children and teens? Let us know in the comments section below.
2. Russell A. C., Stone A. L., and Walker L. S., Functional Nausea in Children: A Review of the Literature and Need for Diagnostic Criteria: Children (Basel, Switzerland)
3. What is nausea and vomiting?; Children’s Wisconsin
4. Vomiting or nausea in children; Harvard Health Publishing
5. Nausea and Vomiting: Care and Treatment; Cleveland Clinic
6. Food Poisoning Symptoms; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
7. Gastroenteritis; U.S. National Library of Medicine
8. Hirschsprung Disease; National Organization for Rare Disorders
9. Indigestion (Dyspepsia); American Academy of Family Physician
10. What You Know Can Help You – An Introduction to Toxic Substances; Department of Health, New York State
11. Maceira E., Lesar T. S., and Smith H. Medication related nausea and vomiting in palliative medicine; Ann Palliat Med
12. Peptic ulcer; U.S. National Library of Medicine
13. Kidney Stones in Children and Teens; American Academy of Pediatrics
14. Gallbladder Diseases; American Pediatric Surgical Association
15. Acid Reflux (GER & GERD) in Children & Teens; The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
16. Moreno M. A., Urinary Tract Infections in Children and Adolescents; JAMA Pediatrics (2016).
17. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) in Children; Stanford Children’s Health
18. Viral Hepatitis; A.T. Still University/Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
19. Concussion Signs and Symptoms; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
20. Kabbouche M.A., and Gilman, D.K., Management of migraine in adolescents; Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment (2008)
21. Keller V. E., Management of nausea and vomiting in children; Journal of Pediatric Nursing