Vomiting and kids: What you need to know
How do you handle your child's vomiting at home and when should you seek the opinion of a medical professional? Keep reading to find out, as well as more useful information related to vomiting and kids...
Vomiting and kids — a situation that is equal parts scary and frustrating, especially if kids throw up after eating the last mouthful of a meal their parents painstakingly fed them for an hour!
My eldest son used to be a “vomiter.” As a young baby, he would vomit regularly when he encountered the smallest lump or bump in his food. My youngest son did this, too, although he certainly was not as bad as his brother.
My son’s pediatrician said that while all babies have a strong gag reflex to prevent them from choking, some babies’ gag reflex lasts longer than others — as was the case with my son.
Many babies and young toddlers are “vomiters” like my son was, and usually it’s nothing to be worried about. The reasons for vomiting can vary to a great extent, from over-eating to an ear infection. We list the most common reasons below.
Vomiting and kids: The causes
It’s best to have an idea about what’s causing your child’s vomiting so you can treat it more effectively.
If your child vomits once and stops, it could be that he just ate too much or gagged on a piece of food. However, if the vomiting continues, then it could be due to any of the following reasons:
Viral or bacterial infection
With this, the usual suspect is stomach flu. If your child has a tummy bug, then he may also have other symptoms like diarrhea, loss of appetite and fever along with the vomiting. Medical experts say the vomiting usually stops within 12 to 24 hours.
Infections such as the common cold can lead to your child vomiting, especially when coughing. A urinary tract infection (UTI) or even an ear infection can also lead to nausea and vomiting.
If your toddler or baby swallows something toxic like a drug, plant, medicine or chemical, it could most likely result in vomiting. Food poisoning, too, will usually cause your child to vomit soon after eating (within a few hours).
Excessive crying/ coughing
Too much crying (and coughing) can trigger your child’s gag reflex and cause him to vomit.
Kids and vomiting: What to do at home…
For newborns and babies under 6 months of age
– Watch your baby carefully for dehydration. Signs include your baby having less urine production and being thirstier than usual.
– If you are breastfeeding, continue with it. Offer each breast to your baby for 1-2 minutes every 10 minutes.
– Do not replace breastmilk with plain water.
– If your baby is formula-fed, switch to an oral rehydration solution (ORS) until the vomiting stops. The instructions and amount to be given should be clearly stated on the packet (to be sure, check with the pharmacist). ORS is a mixture of essential minerals, sugars and salt that will replenish what your baby’s body loses during vomiting.
For children aged 7 to 12 months
– If your child is still breastfeeding, continue with it. Do not replace breast milk with water.
– You can also give small sips of ORS every 10 minutes. Make the amount recommended by following instructions on the ORS packet or checking with the pharmacist.
– Do not replace ORS or breastmilk with plain water, fruit juice or soda. Fruit juice and soda contain far too much sugar and not enough of the essential minerals and salts your child needs. Plain water lacks the calories that your child needs at this time.
– You could also offer your child mild baby foods such as bananas, cereal or baby crackers.
For children over 1 year
– Give around 30ml of a clear liquid (ORS, clear broth, coconut water) every 20 minutes for 1 hour.
– Gradually increase the volume of clear liquid if your child is keeping it down without vomiting.
– Avoid soda, juice and plain water for the reasons mentioned earlier in this article.
– Start to offer your child regular foods after 6 hours of no vomiting. Some good options are crackers, toast, broths, mild soups, mashed potatoes, rice and bread.
– Avoid high-fibre foods like beans as these are harder to digest. Avoid high-sugar foods such as ice cream and candy as well.
If your child’s vomiting is related to a cold, coughing or over-eating, it’s certainly no cause for worry and can easily be managed at home. But there are instances when it’s best to get the opinion of a doctor.
Vomiting and kids: When to seek medical help
Call 995 if:
– Your child is having trouble breathing;
– He shows signs of severe dehydration, such as cold, splotchy hands and feet, excessive sleepiness, fussiness, dizziness or delirium.
Head straight to Emergency if:
– Your child has very bad stomach pains.
– His vomit contains bile (dark green in colour) or blood that looks like dark coffee grounds. It’s best to retain a sample of the vomit if it contains either of these, as your child’s doctor will probably want to see it.
– He vomits more than once after a head injury, as this could indicate concussion.
– He has a stiff neck, a common sign of meningitis.
Consult your child’s doctor if:
– Your child has been vomiting for more than 24 hours. While this is normal with certain illnesses, it’s still best to show your child to a doctor.
– Your child shows signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination, dry lips and mouth, crying without tears, lethargy and dark yellow urine.
– The vomit contains blood. A little blood is usually nothing to worry about since it could happen when the force of vomiting creates tiny tears along the lining of the esophagus. A doctor will be able to check if this is actually the case or whether it’s something else that needs urgent medical attention.
– Your child regularly throws up when exposed to certain people or places. If your child vomits whenever he gets to school, for example, it could be a sign of stress.
– Your child vomits after eating certain types of food. Vomiting in this case may indicate an allergic reaction to that food. The doctor will be able to recommend tests to confirm this.
Parents, how do you help the discomfort that vomiting causes for your child? Share your home remedies with us by leaving a comment.