About vomiting in babies, children and teenagers

Vomiting in children has many causes, but the most common are minor illnesses like gastroenteritis or urinary tract infections. Sometimes even colds can cause vomiting in children.

Other causes of vomiting include motion sickness and more serious illnesses like 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 known as reflux.

Vomiting is very common in children. But it 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 related to vomiting

Children who are vomiting often also have stomach paindiarrhoea and nausea.

Dehydration is one of the serious risks of vomiting, especially in young babies. Signs of dehydration include fewer wees (with fewer wet nappies in babies), sunken eyes, dry tongue and mouth, loss of weight, tiredness and lethargy.

Does your child need to see a doctor about vomiting?

You should take your child to the GP if your child:

  • is vomiting often
  • has poor weight gain because of vomiting.

Take your child to a hospital emergency department straight away if:

  • your child seems to be dehydrated – she isn’t weeing or is doing fewer wees than usual, is pale and thin, has sunken eyes, cold hands and cold feet, is drowsy or cranky
  • your child has blood-stained or bright green vomit
  • your child has severe or persistent stomach pain with vomiting
  • you’re worried that your child is very unwell.

Projectile vomiting
Projectile vomiting is when young babies 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.

You know your child best, so trust your instincts if your child doesn’t seem well. Signs that your child has a serious illness that requires urgent medical attention include severe pain, drowsiness, pale or blue skin, dehydration, troubled breathing, seizures and reduced responsiveness.

Treatment for vomiting

If your child is vomiting, the most important thing is to give your child small amounts to drink often – for example, a few mouthfuls every 15 minutes. Either water or oral rehydration fluid is best. This will help to prevent dehydration. To get a sense of whether your child is drinking enough, check how much your child is weeing.

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 this only after proper medical review.

If your baby suffers from gastro-oesophageal reflux, various treatment strategies can help. It’s best to start by seeing your GP or paediatrician.