When children are sick they tend to vomit more than adults do. After vomiting, your child will probably be back to normal quickly, but you should take your child to the doctor if you’re worried.
Causes of vomiting
Vomiting in children has many causes, but the most common cause is bacterial or viral infection – for example, gastroenteritis, a urinary tract infection or even a common cold.
Other causes of vomiting include motion sickness and more serious illnesses, such as appendicitis or meningitis.
Some types of vomiting are normal. For example, young babies tend to vomit up small amounts of milk after feeds. This is called posseting. You can often reduce this kind of vomiting by burping your baby a little more during feeds.
Gastro-oesophageal reflux also causes babies to vomit. This generally happens more often than posseting and in larger amounts. It happens before, during and after feeds.
Although it’s common, vomiting can be an unpleasant and frightening experience for you and your child. It might help to know that most of the time children get over vomiting very quickly.
Symptoms linked to vomiting
Children who are vomiting often also have abdominal pain, diarrhoea and nausea.
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 about vomiting
You should take your child to the doctor if:
- you’re concerned about dehydration
- your child has poor weight gain because of vomiting
- your child has blood-stained or bright green-coloured vomit
- your child has persistent projectile vomiting
- your child has severe or persistent abdominal pain with vomiting
- your vomiting baby or child generally seems unwell, and you’re concerned.
Projectile vomiting is when young children throw up the contents of their stomachs with a lot of force. This can be linked to a serious condition called pyloric stenosis. If your child has projectile vomiting that happens often and doesn’t seem to be going away, you should see your doctor as soon as you can.
Treatment for vomiting
If your child is vomiting, the most important thing is to make sure your child gets enough fluid, either water or oral rehydration fluid. This helps prevent dehydration.
Your child also needs reassurance and comfort.
You shouldn’t use over-the-counter medications to stop vomiting in children. The side effects of these medications can be very serious. Sometimes doctors prescribe medications to stop vomiting, but they do so only after proper medical review.
If your baby suffers from gastro-oesophageal reflux, there are various treatment strategies to help the problem, including propping her up after a feed.