What Happens In Your Baby's Brain When They Vomit? They're Not Thrilled

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Remember those queasy, nauseating retches just before you are about to vomit? Even the thought of it sends ripples of distress inside you. Doesn’t it?

So, imagine, how would your child feel when he is about to vomit. The level of discomfort is, indeed, high. This is because, much like adults, children aren’t in control of the bouts of sickness that take over. And being young, they often feel confused and miserable about the lingering unpleasant feeling in their bodies.

What are the physiological factors that cause vomiting and how do they affect your baby’s brain? This article intends to shed some light on some facts that might come in handy.

Spitting Up Versus Vomiting

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Well, I hate to break it to you, but spitting up and vomiting are not the same. Spitting up is merely a reflex action of a developing digestive function in babies. It happens mostly after a burp, causing food to spurt out from the mouth.

When babies are tiny, their stomachs aren’t equipped to hold large quantities of food or liquids. Therefore, in the event of over-feeding, the contents of the stomach flow out. A wet burp or swallowing air could also cause spit-ups. Though it may seem like trouble, spitting up doesn’t cause pain and is absolutely harmless. In fact, many a times babies may not even realize that they have spit-up their milk (1).

Vomiting, on the other hand, is a forceful eviction of the stomach’s content. Nausea, elevated heartbeat, salivation, acidity, and strong contraction of abdominal muscles can all cause distress to your baby. You might have noticed that your baby is completely drained of energy post vomiting, which is not the case with spitting up.

Physiology Of Vomiting

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There are complex ways in which your physiological factors work that cause vomiting (2). Before your baby vomits, there is a sharp contraction in his/her diaphragm and abdominal muscles, which forces the oesophageal path to open. This can also be a reflex action stimulated by a region of their brain known as the ‘vomiting center.’

The vomiting center triggers vomiting when there is a stimulus from:

  • Stomach and the intestinal nerves. Basically, when there is potential or perceived irritation, infection or inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
  • Residues or chemicals (from medicines and drugs) stored in their blood.
  • Sensory faculties of sight or smell (an unpleasant odor or a disturbing sight that your child might have experienced).
  • The region of the middle ear, in case of motion sickness.

Causes And Symptoms Associated With Vomiting

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If your child’s vomit has turned into a chronic disorder, there might be other reasons apart from the ones mentioned above:

  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease): When the episodes of spitting up get worse, you may need to check with a paediatrician for the symptoms of GERD. In this condition, the lower part of the oesophagus relaxes to allow liquids and foods to flow into your stomach. Hence, the acid reflux occurs.
  • Infections: Infections related to the respiratory system, urinary tract, appendix, brain, etc. are quite common among kids. Urgent medical intervention is required to treat such cases. Hence, if you notice the following symptoms in your child, consult your paediatrician right away.
  • Continuous vomiting for more than 24 hours.
  • Pain and swelling in the abdomen.
  • Repeated bouts of vomiting.
  • Irritability.
  • Dehydration and less urination.
  • Presence of bile or blood in the vomit.

While on the one hand, vomiting is a physically stressful situation for the baby, it is also one of the most effective ways of eliminating toxins from your body. At times, if something bothers their stomach, kids usually feel better after a bout of vomiting. That being said, vomiting is also indicative of an underlying ailment that you possibly weren’t aware of. So, the next time your baby vomits, keep him hydrated and consult a doctor if you observe persistent symptoms.

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