There are many causes of vomiting, but the most common cause is an infection (either bacterial or viral) – for example, gastroenteritis, a urinary tract infection or even the common cold. Other causes of vomiting include motion sickness and more serious illnesses, such as appendicitis or meningitis.
Young babies tend to vomit up small amounts of milk after feeds (posseting). This is normal, and can usually be reduced by burping your baby a little more during feeds. Gastro-oesophageal reflux also causes babies to regurgitate feeds. This occurs more frequently than posseting (before, during and after meals).
Projectile vomiting, which is a forceful throwing up of the contents of the stomach, is characteristic of pyloric stenosis. This is a serious condition. If your child has persistent projectile vomiting you should seek medical help immediately.
Vomiting is often accompanied by abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Dehydration is one of the serious risks of vomiting, especially in young babies. Signs of dehydration include decreased urination (with fewer wet nappies), sunken eyes, dry tongue and mouth, loss of weight, tiredness and lethargy.
When to see your doctor
You should go to the doctor if:
- your child has poor weight gain due to vomiting
- your child has blood-stained or green-coloured vomit
- your vomiting baby generally seems unwell, and you’re concerned.
Medications that stop vomiting shouldn’t be used in children. The side effects can be very serious.
The most important thing to do when treating vomiting is to make sure your child gets adequate fluid replacement. This helps prevent dehydration. Read our article on dehydration to learn more about this.
If your baby suffers from gastro-oesophageal reflux, there are various treatment strategies to help the problem, including propping her up after a feed. Find more treatment details in our article on gastro-oesophageal reflux.