Nausea can be defined as a queasiness in the stomach that is accompanied by an involuntary urge to vomit. Episodes of nausea in children and adolescents are not uncommon (1) (2). Nausea is not a disease but a complex symptom of various underlying conditions and can be managed at homes for some children. Read this post to know more about the causes, home remedies, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of nausea in children.
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.
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.
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). According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), foodborne diseases affect many individuals in the United States annually. It is estimated that approximately one in six Americans, equivalent to 48 million people, fall ill due to these diseases.
- 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, stomach discomfort, 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 upset stomach, stomach 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).
- 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. Researchers assessed data obtained from National Fatality Review-Case Reporting System and found that over two-fifths (42.1%, 308 of 731) of poisoning-related fatalities occurred among infants aged <1 year between 2005 and 2018. Some common toxicity symptoms 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 chemotherapyiXA course of treatment that uses powerful chemicals to kill fast-growing cells in the body, most often cancerous tissue or anestheticsiXA drug that induces insensitivity to pain and is often used during surgery 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, nauseous feeling, 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 migraines may include nausea, sensitivity to light, fatigue, and loss of appetite (20).
- Appendicitis: It is a condition in which the appendix of the child gets blocked and infected. Though a strong and sharp pain is one of the most common symptoms of appendicitis, there are other symptoms accompanying the pain such as nausea, low-grade fever, diarrhea, and vomiting.
- Heat exhaustion: Also known as heat illness, this condition occurs when the child is out in the sun for a long time without the intake of adequate fluids, thus causing the body’s cooling system to break down. The symptoms of heat exhaustion include excessive thirst, weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps (heat cramps), nausea, headache, and profuse sweating.
When To Call A Doctor?
- Severe abdominal pain
- Severe headache or stiff neck
- Reduced alertness
- Faster pulse or breathing
- JaundiceiXA medical condition arising from excessive bilirubin in the body that causes the yellowing of skin or eyes
- 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
- X-rays to check gastrointestinal distress such as the presence of inflammation or intestinal blockage
Quiara Smith, MOT, an expert pediatric pelvic health occupational therapist from West Fargo, North Dakota, says, “The root cause (food allergies, GI issues, anxiety, etc.) of nausea and vomiting is the most important aspect to uncover for the long-term outlook in children, since this affects a child’s functioning across all environments and impacts tasks they need to participate in.”
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
- AntiemeticiXA drug used to prevent or suppress vomiting and nausea 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
Smith adds, “After treatment, children continue to utilize coping strategies around nausea and vomiting prevention with the tools they have learned while participating in complementary and alternative medicine intervention.”
Parents are advised not to self-medicate children for nausea and vomiting but you may try some home remedies for mild and infrequent nausea.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is nausea without vomiting normal in children?
Yes, nausea may or may not be accompanied by vomiting in children. Depending on what caused it, nausea may occur with other symptoms, such as malaise and diarrhea (24).
2. Can I give children anti-nausea medicine?
3. What over-the-counter medicine is good for nausea in children?
Most over-the-counter medicines (OTC) generally do not require prescriptions. However, OTC anti-nausea medicines such as Dimenhydrinate must be administered only after ensuring their safety and efficacy to avoid cross-interaction with any other medication the child may be taking (27).
Nausea is a frequent complaint among children that usually goes away without treatment. However, in some cases, it could be caused by a serious underlying illness, such as food poisoning, peptic ulcers, or other conditions that require urgent diagnosis and treatment. So, if your child is experiencing severe nausea and vomiting, along with symptoms including jaundice, fever, abdominal pain, headache, and stiff neck, see a doctor right away. Taking the necessary measures and maintaining a healthy diet might also help prevent nausea.
Infographic: Motion Sickness-Induced Nausea In Children
Nausea is an uncomfortable feeling and more so during a fun trip. If your child is one of them, you may want to know more about it and how to make them comfortable through it with the help of this infographic.
- Nausea in children is caused by various conditions and has associated symptoms.
- Symptoms include fever, abdominal pain, vomiting, headache, dizziness, loss of appetite, and sore throat.
- Home remedies include adequate fluid intake, light and bland foods, avoiding certain foods, rest, and roasted cumin seeds.
- Encourage slower and smaller meals, high-fiber foods, limit physical activity, and face windscreen if motion sickness arises.
- Common causes are food poisoning, indigestion, stress, constipation, and medication side effects.
Is your child vomiting and showing symptoms similar to diarrhea? Worry not, check out this video where an expert shares how to help your child through this. Explore support methods during these challenging times in this video.
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