At Westchester Health, we often get frantic calls from parents with a child that can’t seem to stop vomiting. The majority of the time, vomiting is caused by a virus and will get better on its own, but there are some things you can do at home to help your child feel better. There are also some warning signs to look out for, which we share with our parents here in a blog by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician in our Westchester Health Pediatrics group.
If your baby is vomiting
- We recommend small frequent sips of fluids when vomiting to avoid dehydration. If breastfed, nurse him/her more often. Offer each breast for 1-2 minutes every 10 minutes. In addition, you may have to pump or offer Pedialyte in between breastfeedings, even as little as a teaspoon (from a spoon or in a syringe) every 5-10 minutes.
- If your baby is bottle fed, increase the number of feedings to make up for lost fluids. The amount of extra fluid your baby needs depends on his/her age and size. For example, a newborn may need as little as 1 fl oz (30 mL) at each extra feeding, while a 12-month-old may need as much as 3 fl oz (90 mL) at each extra feeding.
- Ask your pediatrician if you should use an oral rehydration solution (ORS) if your baby still isn’t getting enough fluids from formula or the breast. The amount of ORS your baby needs depends on your baby’s age and size. You can give the ORS in a dropper, spoon or bottle.
- No solids until your baby has stopped vomiting for several hours.
- Once several hours have passed with no vomiting, if your baby has started eating cereal, you can replace lost fluids with cereal. You also may feed your baby strained bananas and mashed potatoes if your child has had these foods before.
How to help children ages 1-11 stop vomiting
- Nothing to eat or drink until it is has been an hour since the last vomit.
- Make sure your child is drinking enough fluids. Once an hour has passed with no vomiting, frequent, small amounts of fluids are best. He/she can also suck on flavored ice pops
- Once several hours have passed with no vomiting, you can allow your child to drink as much fluid as he/she wants. Note: Do not give your child fruit juice or soda. These contain too much sugar and not enough of the essential minerals (electrolytes) that are being lost.
- Cereal mixed with milk or water may also be used to replace lost fluids after several hours have passed with no vomiting.
- If your child still is not getting enough fluids, you can try an ORS such as Pedialyte.
- Gradually start to offer your child regular foods after 6 hours with no vomiting.
- Offer your child solid foods if he/she was eating solids before, such as crackers, toast, broths, mild soups, mashed potatoes, rice and bread.
Avoid high-fiber foods, such as beans, and foods with a lot of sugar, such as candy or ice cream.
How to treat vomiting in older children
After talking with your child’s pediatrician, you can give your older child an OTC antinausea medicine, such as Zofran, meclizine (Antivert or Bonine) or dimenhydrinate (Dramamine). NOTE: Follow the package instructions carefully.
VERY IMPORTANT: Watch for dehydration
If your child is vomiting continuously, you need to make sure that he/she does not get dehydrated, which is when the body loses so much water that it can no longer function efficiently. If dehydration becomes severe, it can be life-threatening. To prevent this, make sure your child consumes enough extra fluids to restore what has been lost through throwing up. If he/she also vomits the replacement fluids, notify your pediatrician.
Common signs of dehydration:
- dry, cracked lips and a dry mouth
- a decrease in urine output, no urine for 8-12 hours, or dark-colored urine
- drowsiness or irritability
- cold or dry skin
- low energy levels, seeming very weak or limp
- no tears when crying
- sunken eyes or sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on baby’s head
When to call your pediatrician
Call your child’s doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
- Your child can’t keep down clear liquids
- Dehydration develops. Signs include your child being thirstier than usual and having less urine than usual.
- Your child’s vomiting returns or becomes severe
- Blood or yellow or green liquid (bile) is present in your child’s vomit
- Your child’s vomiting does not get better
- Your child’s symptoms become more severe or more frequent
- If your child’s vomiting is associated with a bad headache
Call 911 if your child:
- Is less than 1 month old and vomits after every attempt to feed. Frequent, forceful vomiting in an infant under 3 months may be a sign of pyloric stenosis.
- Is vomiting and has severe stomach pains or is complaining of a headache, which may be meningitis if he/she has a fever and is vomiting, especially if he/she does not have diarrhea. Other danger signs of meningitis include a stiff neck and skin rashes.
- Is vomiting after a head injury. This may indicate that your child has a concussion or a brain hemorrhage.
- Vomits blood or a substance that looks like coffee granules, which is a sign that there is blood in the stomach.
- Vomits green (bile-colored) substances and has severe abdominal pain, which may be a blockage in his intestines.
- Has an abdomen that feels hard and that is tight and tender between episodes of vomiting.
- Has a dramatic change in mental status, such as seems extremely tired or dazed, which may be a sign of an infection in the brain or spinal cord.
Want to know more about how to stop vomiting? Come see us, we’re here to help.
If your child vomits from time to time, possibly due to stomach viruses, please make an appointment with Westchester Health to see one of our pediatricians. He/she will examine your child, listen to his/her medical history, and determine if there is maybe something more serious going on. He/she will also answer your questions and offer advice and guidance for ways to prevent or shorten the duration of vomiting so your child can get back to feeling better soon. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.
To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.