Vomiting in children can be due to various reasons, such as stomach flu or indigestion. Occasional vomiting may not be a major cause of concern, and most children can be treated at home. However, it is recommended to seek medical care for frequent episodes of vomiting or if it is accompanied by other symptoms such as diarrhea or fever.
Read on to understand the causes, symptoms, signs, treatments, and home remedies for vomiting in children. Avoid giving medications for vomiting without a prescription. You may also pay attention to hydration status and seek rehydration therapy if the child cannot drink enough water or have signs of dehydration.
Causes Of Vomiting In Children
Some of the common causes for vomiting in children include:
- Gastroenteritis: Also called the stomach flu or stomach infection, it is caused by a virus (commonly norovirus, astrovirus, and enterovirus). In addition to vomiting, symptoms of gastroenteritis include nausea, diarrhea, and sometimes fever. In most cases, mild gastroenteritis subsides in a couple of days (1). Severe gastroenteritis that could lead to dehydration and other complications would need medical attention.
- Food allergy: When the child’s immune system reacts differently to a substance or food, it is termed as a food allergy. Some children may be allergic to foods such as peanuts, tree nuts, fish, wheat, eggs, milk, and soy. Symptoms of a food allergy may include vomiting, along with stomach pain, diarrhea, and breathing problems (2).
- Food poisoning: Stale food or germs in fruits and vegetables may be a reason for food poisoning. Vomiting, nausea, fever, and abdominal pain could be a few symptoms of food poisoning in children and may either disappear in a few hours or take a couple of days to subside (3).
- Appendicitis: The painful condition causes swelling of the appendix. In some cases, the appendix (a thin tube connected to the large intestine) may burst, causing severe infection – this is a medical emergency and has to be treated immediately. Vomiting is one of the symptoms of appendicitis, which could be fatal if left untreated (4).
- Infections: Although viral gastroenteritis is common in children, some may be affected by non-gastrointestinal infections such as meningitis (bacterial infection causing inflammation in spinal cord and brain), septicemia (bacterial infection in the bloodstream), and urinary tract infections. Vomiting may be one of the symptoms of these conditions (5).
- Others: Headache, head injury, and motion sickness may be a few other reasons responsible for vomiting in children (6).
In most cases, when the condition is not severe, home remedies may help in treating vomiting in children.
Home Remedies For Vomiting In Children
A few common home remedies that people find helpful for curbing vomiting in children are mentioned below.
- Liquids: Make your child sip water once in every five to ten minutes. If they are unable to have fluids, then sucking on ice chips or frozen juice bars could be a good idea (7).
- Solids: Bland foods may be given to the child, but make sure they eat it slowly. Also, ask them if they are hungry and want to eat. Foods you may give include crackers, rice, dry cereal, cooked carrots, bananas, boiled potatoes, or any other fruits and vegetables they want to eat. Do not give any greasy or fried foods as these might make them throw up again (7) (8).
- Oral rehydration solution (ORS): Ask your doctor if you can give the ORS to the child. ORS, such as Infalyte or Pedialyte, has minerals, sugar, and salt, which may help the kid feel better (9).
- Peppermint: Some people give candies or sugar-free sticks containing peppermint to children, to make them feel better after vomiting (10).
- Ginger: Ginger is considered to be effective in controlling gastroenteritis-related vomiting. You can make light herbal tea with ginger essence (11).
- Lemon juice: You may give your child some sips of lime or lemon water or soda, as it helps in relieving the symptoms of vomiting (12).
When To Consult A Doctor?
When it’s been more than three to four days and your child is not feeling comfortable, then consulting a doctor is suggested. Also, medical attention is necessary if there are other symptoms, such as (13):
- Fever and cough
- Vomiting doesn’t stop and becomes forceful
- Weight loss
- Yellowish green bile or blood in vomit
Based on these symptoms, the doctor will further diagnose the child before suggesting any treatment. They may ask about bowel movements, the appearance of the vomit, any unusual signs that were noticed, frequency and time of vomiting, and any other health problems the child has. If they find something unusual, they would suggest a laboratory test. The treatment plan is recommended based on the results.
Treatment For Vomiting In Children
As vomiting in children is usually a symptom and not a severe condition, there is no significant treatment for it. If the child is only vomiting and there is no other symptom or underlying condition, then medicines are not recommended. However, if the child has severe vomiting and other signs, such as fever, infection, or diarrhea, then the doctor may prescribe certain medications (14) (15):
- Antiemetics or anti-nausea medicine
- Medicine for an underlying medical condition
- Intravenous fluids for children with vomiting and dehydration
Following these patterns can help doctors recognize the possible causes of vomiting in your child and chalk out a treatment plan.
Is It Possible To Prevent Vomiting In Children?
Typically, it is not possible to prevent vomiting once the stomach expels the content. However, some hygienic tips might help in preventing the constant sensation of vomiting or vomiting in children.
- If your child is allergic to some foods that make them vomit, avoid giving them those.
- Make sure they are eating fresh and hygienically prepared food and not stale food.
- If motion sickness is the cause for your child’s vomiting, then giving them ginger or peppermint candy may help in preventing nausea and vomiting. If not, talk to your doctor and get a medicine prescribed, if necessary.
- If dehydration is the cause, see that they are having adequate amounts of water and resting well.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. My child is vomiting but has no fever. What could be the reason?
Vomiting in children is not always accompanied by fever or its related symptoms. Fever may not usually accompany vomiting caused due to motion sickness, allergies, or food poisoning.
2. What to feed my child after vomiting?
Do not give them any fried or greasy stuff after the child has vomited. You may give them water, candies, herbal tea, or bland foods such as rice cereals or crackers.
Stomach flu, indigestion, food allergies, food poisoning, and appendicitis are common causes of vomiting in children. Severe vomiting may lead to dehydration, which may need medical attention. The doctor may prescribe antiemetic medications to treat the underlying cause and intravenous fluids in more severe cases. You may even try some home remedies to manage the condition. Preventing stale food, avoiding allergens, and maintaining a safe distance from other sick children can help prevent illness and vomiting.
Infographic: Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome In Children
Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a rare pediatric condition characterized by repeated vomiting and nausea. This infographic details the possible causes and treatment interventions for this disorder in children.
2. Food Allergies in Children; Rochester medical Center
3. Food Poisoning in Children; Nicklaus Children’s Hospital
4. Appendicitis in Children; University of Rochester Medical Center
5. K. Allen; The vomiting child; College of Medicine University of Florida
6. C. McCarthy; 8 things to watch for when your child has a headache; Harvard Health Publishing (2017)
7. What To Do When Your Child Is Vomiting; Fairview.org
8. Vomiting; Children’s Hospital & Clinics
9. Nausea and Vomiting in Children: Care Instructions; Kaiser Permanente
10. New study finds ginger proven to treat vomiting in children with acute gastroenteritis; the American Association for the Advancement of Science (2018)
11. First Aid: Vomiting; Brenner Children’s Wake Forest Baptist Health
12. Children and vomiting; Victoria State Government
13. Vomiting; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
14. Intravenous Fluids in Children with Gastroenteritis; American Academy of Family Physicians
Dr Bisny T. Joseph
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