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Home > Patient & Family Resources > Health Library > Nausea and Vomiting, Age 11 and Younger
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Vomiting occurs when a child's stomach contents are forced up the esophagus and out of the mouth. Although nausea may accompany vomiting in adults and older children, children younger than age 3 are usually not able to tell you if they are having nausea. Most of the time vomiting is not serious. Home treatment will often ease your child's discomfort.
Vomiting in a baby should not be confused with spitting up. Vomiting is forceful and repeated. Spitting up may seem forceful but it usually occurs shortly after feeding, is effortless, and causes no discomfort.
A baby may spit up for no reason at all. Overfeeding, not burping your baby after feeding, intolerance to milk or formula, and exposure to tobacco smoke are other reasons why your baby may spit up.
Most vomiting in children is caused by a viral stomach illness (gastroenteritis). A child with a stomach illness also may have other symptoms, such as diarrhea, fever, and stomach cramps. With home treatment, the vomiting usually will stop within 12 hours. Diarrhea may last for a few days or more.
Rotavirus is a virus that can cause severe vomiting and diarrhea. Rotavirus vaccine helps protect against rotavirus disease.
Vomiting can also be caused by an infection in another part of the body, such as strep throat, pneumonia, or a urinary tract infection. In rare cases, vomiting can be a symptom of a serious condition, such as a blockage of the digestive tract (pyloric stenosis), an infection (meningitis) of the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid) and tissues (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord, or Reye syndrome.
When a toddler vomits, it is important to make sure he or she has not swallowed medicines, household liquids, or other poisons. Look around the house for empty containers and spills. There may be pills in your child's vomit, or the vomit may have an unusual appearance, color, or odor. For more information, see the topic Poisoning.
A child who falls down and forcefully hits his or her head or belly may vomit because of an injury to those areas. Check your child's body for bruises and other injuries.
Babies and children younger than 1 year old need special attention if they continue to vomit. They can quickly become dehydrated. It is important to replace lost fluids when your child is vomiting. Watch your child carefully, and pay close attention to the amount of fluid he or she is able to drink. Look for early symptoms of dehydration:
Also, be sure to notice the color of the vomit, and count the number of times your child vomits. If your child vomits so frequently that you can't get him or her to drink or vomits every time he or she takes a drink, the risk of dehydration is greater.
Check your child's symptoms to decide if and when your child should see a doctor.
Many things can affect how your body responds to a symptom and what kind of care you may need. These include:
You have answered all the questions. Based on your answers, you may be able to take care of this problem at home.
If you're not sure if a child's fever is high, moderate, or mild, think about these issues:
With a high fever:
With a moderate fever:
With a mild fever:
Certain health conditions and medicines weaken the immune system's ability to fight off infection and illness. Some examples in children are:
Temperature varies a little depending on how you measure it. For children up to 11 years old, here are the ranges for high, moderate, and mild according to how you took the temperature.
Oral (by mouth), ear, or rectal temperature
A forehead (temporal) scanner is usually 0.5° F (0.3° C) to 1° F (0.6° C) lower than an oral temperature.
Armpit (axillary) temperature
Note: For children under 5 years old, rectal temperatures are the most accurate.
Babies can quickly get dehydrated when they lose fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to severe. For example:
You can get dehydrated when you lose a lot of fluids because of problems like vomiting or fever.
Severe dehydration means:
Moderate dehydration means:
Mild dehydration means:
Many nonprescription and prescription medicines can cause nausea or vomiting. A few examples are:
Starting a new medicine or increasing the dose can cause nausea and vomiting. Nausea and vomiting also may mean that there is too much medicine in your body, even if you took it properly.
Repeated vomiting: The child vomits nearly every time he or she tries to drink something. This type of vomiting makes it impossible to keep down any fluids or solid food, which greatly increases the chance of becoming dehydrated. The child has an even greater chance of dehydration if he or she also has diarrhea.
Occasional vomiting: Some young children vomit every once in a while for no clear reason. This usually does not increase the risk of dehydration or other problems as long as the child can keep down fluids between vomiting. The more time that passes between episodes of vomiting, the less serious it probably is. But if the vomiting continues, it may be important to find the cause.
Symptoms of serious illness in a baby may include the following:
Symptoms of serious illness may include:
An illness plan for people with diabetes usually covers things like:
The plan is designed to help keep your diabetes in control even though you are sick. When you have diabetes, even a minor illness can cause problems.
It is easy for your diabetes to become out of control when you are sick. Because of an illness:
Colic is an extreme type of crying in a baby between 3 weeks and 3 months of age. All babies cry, but a colicky baby will cry for hours at a time, no matter what you do.
During a crying episode, a colicky baby may cry loudly and continuously and be hard to comfort. The baby may get red in the face, clench the fists, and arch his or her back or pull the legs up to the belly.
A baby that is extremely sick:
A baby that is sick (but not extremely sick):
Based on your answers, you may need care right away. The problem is likely to get worse without medical care.
Based on your answers, you may need care soon. The problem probably will not get better without medical care.
Based on your answers, the problem may not improve without medical care.
Based on your answers, you need emergency care.
Call 911 or other emergency services now.
Sometimes people don't want to call 911. They may think that their symptoms aren't serious or that they can just get someone else to drive them. Or they might be concerned about the cost. But based on your answers, the safest and quickest way for you to get the care you need is to call 911 for medical transport to the hospital.
Don't wait until you see signs of dehydration in your baby. These signs include your baby being thirstier than usual and having less urine than usual.
If your child also has diarrhea, try home treatment for diarrhea.
Call your child's doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:
It is normal for babies to spit up after a feeding. Vomiting after a single feeding may happen sometimes and does not mean your baby has a problem. Repeated vomiting after feedings is more of a concern. The following tips may help your baby spit up less often. If this advice does not help, talk with your doctor.
If you use child care, talk to the caregivers about their program or policies for sick children.
To prepare for your appointment, see the topicMaking the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your child's condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
Current as of:
July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: July 1, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
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