Vomiting occurs when a child's stomach
contents are forced up the
esophagus and out of the mouth. Although nausea may
accompany vomiting in adults and older children, children younger than age 3
are usually not able to tell you if they are having nausea. Most of the time
vomiting is not serious. Home treatment will often ease your child's
Vomiting in a baby should not be confused with spitting
up. Vomiting is forceful and repeated. Spitting up may seem forceful but it
usually occurs shortly after feeding, is effortless, and causes no discomfort.
Causes of vomiting
A baby may spit up for no reason
Overfeeding, not burping your baby after feeding,
intolerance to milk or formula, and exposure to tobacco smoke are other reasons
why your baby may spit up.
Most vomiting in children is caused by a viral stomach illness (gastroenteritis). A child with a stomach illness also
may have other symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. With home
treatment, the vomiting usually will stop within 12 hours. Diarrhea may last
for a few days or more.
Rotavirus is a virus that can cause
severe vomiting and diarrhea.
Rotavirus vaccine (What is a PDF document?) helps protect against
Vomiting can also be
caused by an infection in another part of the body, such as
pneumonia, or a urinary tract infection. In rare cases, vomiting can
be a symptom of a serious condition, such as a blockage of the digestive tract
(pyloric stenosis), an infection (meningitis) of the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) and
tissues (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord, or
When a toddler vomits,
it is important to make sure he or she has not swallowed medicines, household
liquids, or other poisons. Look around the house for empty containers and
spills. There may be pills in your child's vomit, or the vomit may have an
unusual appearance, color, or odor. For more information, see the topic
A child who falls down and
forcefully hits his or her head or belly may vomit because of an injury to
those areas. Check your child's body for bruises and other injuries.
Babies and children younger than 1 year old
need special attention if they continue to vomit. They can quickly become
dehydrated. It is important to replace lost fluids
when your child is vomiting. Watch your child carefully, and pay close
attention to the amount of fluid he or she is able to drink. Look for early
symptoms of dehydration:
- The mouth and eyes may be drier than usual.
- The urine may be less than usual.
- He or she may feel cranky, tired, or dizzy.
Also, be sure to notice the color of the vomit, and count
the number of times your child vomits. If your child vomits so frequently that
you can't get him or her to drink or vomits every time he or she takes a
drink, the risk of dehydration is greater.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when
your child should see a doctor.
Newborns and babies younger than 1 year of age
you see signs of dehydration in your baby. These signs include your baby being thirstier than usual and having less urine than usual.
- If you breast-feed your baby, nurse him or her
more often. Offer each breast to your baby for 1 to 2 minutes every 10 minutes.
- If you use a bottle to feed your baby, increase the number of feedings to make up for lost fluids. The amount of extra fluid your baby needs depends on your baby's age and size. For example, a newborn may need as little as 1 fl oz (30 mL) at each extra feeding, while a 12-month-old baby may need as much as 3 fl oz (90 mL) at each extra feeding.
- Do not give your baby plain water. Use an
oral rehydration solution (ORS) if your baby still isn't getting enough fluids from formula or the breast. The
amount of ORS your baby needs depends on your baby's age and size. You can give the ORS in a dropper, spoon, or
- Offer 0.5 fl oz (15 mL) of the drink every 10 minutes for the first hour. If your baby has trouble drinking that amount at a time, you can give small sips (about 5 mL) instead. Just give the smaller sips more often.
- After the first hour, gradually increase the amount of ORS that you offer your baby. You can stop using ORS when your baby is feeding normally again.
- If your baby has started eating cereal, you may replace
lost fluids with cereal. You also may feed your baby strained bananas and
mashed potatoes if your child has had these foods before.
Children ages 1 through 11
- Make sure your child is drinking often.
Frequent, small amounts work best.
- Allow your child to drink as much fluid as he or she wants.
Encourage your child to
drink extra fluids or suck on flavored ice pops, such as Popsicles. Children
ages 4 to 10 should drink at least 6 to 10 cups of liquids
to replace lost fluids. Note: Do not give your child plain water, fruit juice, or soda pop unless you don't have any other rehydration fluids available. Fruit juice and soda pop contain too much sugar and not enough of the essential minerals (electrolytes) that are being lost. Diet soda pop lacks calories that your child needs.
- Cereal mixed with milk or water may also be
used to replace lost fluids.
- If your child still is not getting enough fluids, you can try an oral rehydration solution (ORS).
- Gradually start to offer
your child regular foods after 6 hours with no vomiting.
- Offer your child solid foods if he or she
was eating solids before. Offer crackers, toast, broths, mild soups, mashed
potatoes, rice, and breads to your older child.
- Avoid high-fiber foods, such as beans, and foods with a
lot of sugar, such as candy or ice cream.
For older children
After talking to your child's doctor, you may give your older child an over-the-counter antinausea medicine, such as meclizine (Antivert or Bonine) or dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). Follow the package instructions carefully.
If your child also has diarrhea, try home treatment for diarrhea.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
Call your child's doctor if any of the following occur during home
- Dehydration develops. Signs include your child being thirstier than usual and having less urine than usual.
- Your child's vomiting
returns or becomes
- Blood or yellow or green liquid
(bile) is present in your child's vomit.
- Your child's vomiting does
not get better.
- Your child's
symptoms become more severe or frequent.
It is normal for babies to spit up after a feeding. Vomiting after a single feeding may happen sometimes and does not mean your baby has a problem. Repeated vomiting after feedings is more of a concern. The following tips may
help your baby spit up less often. If this advice does not help, talk with your doctor.
- Feed your baby smaller amounts at each
- Feed your baby slowly.
- Hold your baby during
- Do not prop your baby's
- Do not place your baby in an infant seat during
- Try a new type of bottle or use a nipple with a
smaller opening to reduce air intake.
- Limit active and rough play
- Try putting your baby in different positions during
and after feeding.
- Burp your baby frequently during
- Consider talking to your doctor about starting your baby
on hypoallergenic formula. About 1% of babies who spit up are allergic to milk
- Do not add cereal to formula without first consulting
your child's doctor.
- Do not smoke when you are feeding your baby. Children
who are exposed to tobacco smoke are more likely to develop illnesses that
cause vomiting. If you smoke, quit. If you can't quit, do not smoke when you
are holding or feeding your baby or when you are in the house or the car. For
more information, see the topic
- Consider getting your
rotavirus vaccine. (What is a PDF document?)
- Limit active and rough play after
- Teach your children how to
wash their hands well, especially if there is an illness in the house.
If you use child care, talk to the caregivers about their
program or policies for sick children.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your
doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer
the following questions:
- Did you have problems during your pregnancy or
with the delivery of this child?
- What do you think might be causing
your baby's vomiting?
- Has your child been exposed to someone with a
- How long has the vomiting been going
- Does your child have any other symptoms, such as fever, belly
pain, or diarrhea?
- Has your child had a recent fall or
- How many times has your child vomited? How much fluid is
lost each time?
- Is your child able to hold down
- What does the vomit look like?
- Is there any blood or yellow or green liquid
(bile) in the vomit?
- Did you find any unusual liquids or pills in
- What does the vomit smell like?
prescription or nonprescription medicines are in your home?
your child's symptoms start after eating at a restaurant? Has anyone else who
ate there with you become ill?
- Has your child recently eaten raw or
- Do you think your child may have eaten any
- Has your child recently visited a foreign
- Has your child recently drunk water from a lake, stream,
or private well?
- Has your child had any known exposure to toxic
materials, chemicals, or fumes?
- Does your child have any
- Abdominal Pain, Age 11 and Younger
- Crying, Age 3 and Younger
- Diarrhea, Age 11 and Younger
- Ear Problems and Injuries, Age 11 and Younger
- Respiratory Problems, Age 11 and Younger
|By: ||Healthwise Staff ||Current as of: November 13, 2013|
|Medical Review: ||William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine|
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine