Nausea is the feeling that you’re going to vomit.
Your child might get nausea if they:
- are sick – for example, if they have gastro or food poisoning
- are taking certain medicines
- have food intolerances
- get motion sickness.
Symptoms of nausea
Older children and teenagers will probably tell you that they feel sick or feel like they’re going to vomit.
Younger children might not be able to tell you that they feel like vomiting, but might look pale and unwell. They also might not want to eat.
Sometimes nausea happens by itself, and sometimes your child might actually vomit.
Does your child need to see a doctor about nausea?
You should see your GP if your child’s nausea lasts for more than 24 hours or your child has nausea plus any of the following symptoms:
- recent head trauma
- stomach pain or bloating.
Take your child to a hospital emergency department straight away or call an ambulance on 000 if your child has nausea plus any of the following symptoms:
- headache or a stiff neck
- difficulty breathing or swelling around the face or mouth
- blurred vision
- confusion and drowsiness
If your child has nausea and you’re worried that they’re very unwell, see your GP or go to a hospital emergency department.
If your child has nausea, it’s good if you can work out what’s causing it and treat this underlying cause. But there’s often no obvious cause, and the nausea goes away by itself.
It’s usually best to treat nausea with very simple measures.
For example, for nausea that’s linked to gastro, encourage your child to have plenty of small drinks of water or oral rehydration fluid, as well as bland foods like dry crackers, bread, rice, potato or jelly. Older children with nausea can try sucking on a sugary lolly like barley sugar. This can be soothing and distracting.
If your child’s nausea is being caused by a food intolerance, your doctor might recommend that your child limits or avoids certain foods.
If your child gets nausea while they’re in the car, they can try:
- looking at the road ahead, or at the horizon
- keeping their head still
- not reading or using devices
- opening a window and getting some fresh air.
Our article on travelling with children has more tips for avoiding motion sickness.
If your child is in hospital with an illness and has nausea, they might be given strong medicines to help.
For longer-term nausea, your doctor might suggest something to distract your child, like music or art therapy.
It can be a good idea to keep a bucket nearby in case your child vomits.