Vomiting In Children: Why Is It Caused And How To Stop It

Vomiting In Children Why Is It Caused And How To Stop It

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Your heart wrenches when you see your child vomiting. Whenever your kid vomits and looks at you helplessly, you feel like doing something, just anything that can take away their pain.

Occasional vomiting in children is not a thing to worry about. Sometimes, it is important for the body to discard the unwanted and harmful foods by throwing them up.

But if it happens frequently, it deprives the child of nutrition. MomJunction tells you why that happens and how you can face the problem. Read on.

What Causes Vomiting In Children?

Here are a few common reasons for vomiting in children (1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6):

  1. Gastroenteritis or stomach flu: Vomiting is one of the symptoms of gastroenteritis. It usually happens from a virus or food contamination. In the case of viral gastroenteritis, vomiting often occurs along with loose stools. Stomach flu also leads to diarrhea. In dysentery, vomiting is uncommon. Gastroenteritis is a short-term problem and the child gets relief within a few days.
  1. Gastroesophageal reflux: Vomiting occurs due to the reverse movement of food from the stomach to the food pipe or esophagus. The reflux may be caused due to wrong seating position while eating, overfeeding or intolerance to some foods.
  1. Food poisoning: Poisoning, which often happens because of bacteria, viruses or food toxins, may be another cause of vomiting. In this situation, your child may also have diarrhea, abdominal cramps, flu-like symptoms such as fever, sore throat, etc.
  1. Motion sickness: Many children feel nauseous from motion but it is only momentary and doesn’t prolong beyond that particular occasion.
  1. Stomach bug: Sometimes vomiting can happen from a bug in the stomach or viral gastroenteritis.
  1. Food allergy: Consumption of some allergic food, like dairy products, can cause vomiting if the child is intolerant to the food. This is a major cause of sporadic vomiting or vomiting happening occasionally at irregular intervals, in children.
  1. Stress: Often mental stress or lack of sleep associated with it can cause churning of the stomach and lead to vomiting without fever or stomach pain.
  1. Digestive problems: Indigestion or dyspepsia leads to vomiting.
  1. Injury: Your child may start vomiting after an injury like a blow to the head. In such cases, vomiting may be indicative of stress or trauma.
  1. Respiratory infections: Infections like cold and cough can also lead to vomiting. When children swallow excess phlegm, they may be throwing up mucus as it gets irritable in the stomach.
  1. Empty stomach: If your child hasn’t eaten anything, they may vomit white foam due to an empty stomach.

All these causes may lead to intermittent or sporadic vomiting in your child, but do not happen regularly.

However, vomiting could also be a result of some more serious health issues, especially when it lasts for weeks. Such conditions include:

  1. Infections like meningitis, urinary tract infection, and middle ear infections.
  1. Appendicitis, which is the inflammation of the appendix, has nausea, vomiting and stomach pain as common symptoms.
  1. A blockage in the intestine (pyloric stenosis) is caused by birth defects like twisting or narrowing of the intestine, but it is uncommon. Such conditions can lead to persistent vomiting in a baby (7).

Vomiting is often accompanied by other symptoms related to the specific illness or resulting due to general weakness.

[ Read: What Causes Nausea In Children ]

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Symptoms Of Vomiting In Children

Here are some symptoms that come along with vomiting:

  • Lethargy
  • Irritability or listlessness; children may not be their usual self
  • A headache
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea

These symptoms disappear once the cause of the problem subsides. But sometimes, they might need a visit to the doctor.

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When To Call The Doctor?

Usually vomiting, even when accompanied by fever or diarrhea, is self-limiting and will go away in about a day or two.

But take the child to a doctor if you observe the below signs (8) (9):

  1. Prolonged vomiting — does not go even after two days
  1. Your kid is dehydrated
  1. Not able to keep fluids down even for 12 hours
  1. Blurred vision
  1. Swallowed something poisonous
  1. Stiff neck
  1. Stunted growth or poor weight gain due to frequent vomiting
  1. Coughing
  1. Choking
  1. Reddish or brown vomit (the vomit may look red if there is some blood in it)
  1. Yellow or green vomit (bile may make a vomit look greener)
  1. Heartburns
  1. If vomiting happens every time after food intake
  1. Vomiting after a head injury
  1. If your child feels nauseous after waking up in the morning and sometimes has a headache
  1. The child has a high fever
  1. Suffering from a migraine
  1. Sometimes your child may experience projectile vomiting. This happens suddenly and violent bursts of vomit can spur several feet away. In that case, go to the doctor immediately.

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[ Read: Signs Of Stomach Pain In Children ]

Diagnosis Of The Problem

A general physical examination usually settles the cause (10). The doctor may analyze your child’s medical history and observe the symptoms. They may ask about:

  • The timing of the vomits
  • Their frequency
  • The color of the vomit
  • If it was a forced vomit
  • Bowel movements
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • General health
  • Sleeping patterns
  • The growth of the child

Medical tests are not required. However, sometimes imaging tests are performed to rule out the chances of a suspected abnormality in the abdomen. Similarly, if your child has symptoms of dehydration, a blood test will be done to count the electrolytes.

Following these patterns can help doctors recognize the possible causes of vomiting in your child and chalk out a treatment plan.

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Treatment For Vomiting

Vomiting does not need treatment unless there is a serious underlying cause. Most types of vomitings need chewable antiemetics with fluid support until the disease is understood.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend oral rehydration therapy as the treatment of choice in the case of dehydration, and the child can be put back to age-appropriate diet once they get rehydrated.

In severe cases, doctors give antiemetics to children who are older than two years. The drugs include (11): prochlorperazine (Compazine), metoclopramide (Reglan), promethazine and ondansetron. Ondansetron is considered the safest of all as the others have a high incidence of side effects.

However, most children do not require medication and find relief in about a day’s time. You can take care of your child at home when the condition is not deleterious.

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[ Read: Home Remedies For Diarrhea In Children ]

Home Care For Vomiting

Here are some home care tips you can follow:

  • If your child is upset due to vomiting, keep talking to them. Tell them that it is temporary and they will be soon out of it once the toxicity is out.
  • Give your kid ice chips or a few tablespoons of water as children do not usually feel comfortable drinking after an episode of vomiting.
  • Make your child takes rest and sleep. More sleep is needed for quick recovery.
  • Gently rub or massage on their neck and head to release stress and sprains.
  • Keep monitoring the symptoms for about 24 hours.
  • After vomiting, do not give anything to eat for at least an hour.
  • Your child may not want to eat after vomiting, so start with something small and light.
  • Remove and wash bedding or linen when contaminated with puke.
  • Make your child drink more water as vomiting leads to loss of fluids from the body.
  • You can give rehydration drinks such as ORS.
  • You may also try fruit juices that are not citric, and soups.
  • Never give your kid high energy drinks or cool drinks.
  • Yogurt is a probiotic that will help children recover.
  • If your kid is lactose intolerant, refrain from giving any dairy products.
  • Maintain good hygiene at home.
  • Do not give your child high-fiber foods — whole fruits, spicy foods, high-fat food — that are difficult to digest.
  • Have them inhale ginger or lemon.
  • Clove, peppermint, and chamomile also ease nausea.

Vomiting leaves an unpleasant after-taste, which your child would dislike. It would make them reluctant to eat anything with the fear that they might puke again. Therefore, try to avoid this problem.

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[ Read: Why Do Children Have Headaches ]

How To Prevent Vomiting?

You can prevent vomiting by following some of these tips:

  • Instead of giving three large meals a day, divide them into five or six small meals.
  • Tell your kid not to lie down immediately after eating but walk for some time.
  • Have your child rest their head a little higher than their feet.
  • If the smell of some foods makes the child nauseous, avoid them.
  • Let them drink at least two liters of water every day.
  • Refrain the child from physical exercise when nauseous.
  • Have a sweet treat, like a popsicle, handy.
  • You can also offer ginger ale to your child as ginger has anti-nauseous and vomiting properties.
  • Ask your child to breathe deeply and exhale slowly.
  • You can try acupressure to relieve nausea and vomiting.
  • Aromatherapy is useful in several ways. You may use an essential oil diffuser in your kid’s room.

Below we answer some common questions that parents have on vomiting.

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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is my child vomiting with no fever?

Several conditions may cause vomiting without fever. The most common causes could be gastroenteritis, a recent head injury, concussion, or allergic food.

Your child may also start vomiting soon after consuming poisonous food, which may or may accompany with fever.

Keep an eye on the child to identify the trigger.

[ Read: How To Cure Child’s Cough ]

2. What to feed my child after a vomit?

Give fluids to keep your child hydrated. You can also give foods that do not irritate the stomach. Some safe foods after throwing up are:

  • Bananas
  • Bread
  • Coconut water
  • Rehydration drinks
  • Yogurt
  • Diluted fruit juice
  • Ginger ale
  • Ice pops
  • Warm tea
  • Vegetable stocks
  • Any light broth
  • Chicken soup
  • Crackers
  • Rice
  • Mashed potatoes

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Do not worry if your child gets an occasional bout of vomiting. It goes away and causes no major harm to the child. However, your child might feel uneasy for as long as it is there. Hence, try to prevent vomiting by taking care of hygiene at home and while preparing food. Do not give any food, which could cause an allergy. Remember, a little bit of extra care at home can help you deal with the problem.

What do you do to stop vomiting? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

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