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What to Do When Your Child Is Vomiting

When your child vomits (throws up), it’s normal to be concerned or worried. But vomiting is usually not due to a major health problem. Vomiting is most often caused by viral infection or food poisoning. It usually lasts only a day or two. The biggest concern when your child is vomiting is dehydration (too little fluid in the body). This sheet tells you what you can do to help your child feel better and stay hydrated.

How Is Vomiting Treated at Home?

Father giving sick child in bed water by spoonfuls.

  • Stomach rest: Keep your child from eating or drinking for at least 30-60 minutes after vomiting. This gives your child’s stomach a chance to recover.

  • Replacing fluids: Dehydration can be a problem when your child is vomiting. Begin replacing fluids after your child has not vomited for 30-60 minutes. To do this: 

    • Wait until your child feels well enough to ask for a drink. Don’t force your child to drink if he or she still feels unwell. And don’t wake your child to drink if he or she is sleeping.

    • Start by giving your child very small amounts (1 oz or less) of fluid every 5-10 minutes. Use a teaspoon instead of a glass to give fluids.

    • Use water or another clear, noncarbonated liquid. Breast milk may be given if your child is breastfeeding.

    • If your child vomits the fluid, wait at least another 30 minutes. Then cut the amount of liquid you give to ½ oz.

    • If your child is having trouble swallowing liquids, offer frozen juice bars or ice chips.

    • Pedialyte or another rehydration drink may be used if your child is dehydrated from repeated vomiting.

  • Solid food:  If your child is hungry and asking for food, try giving small amounts of a bland food. This includes crackers, dry cereal, rice, or noodles. Avoid giving your child greasy, fatty, or spicy foods for a few days as your child recovers.

  • Medication: If your child has a fever, ask your doctor if you can give an over-the-counter medication, such as acetaminophen. These medications may also be available in suppository form if your child is still vomiting. Talk to your pharmacist to learn more. Don’t give your child aspirin to relieve a fever. Using aspirin to treat a fever in children could cause a serious condition called Reye’s syndrome. Also, never give ibuprofen to an infant under 6 months of age.

Call your child’s health care provider right away if your otherwise healthy child has any of the following:

  • Fever

    • In an infant under 3 months old, a rectal temperature of 100.3°F (38.0°C) or higher

    • In a child 3 to 36 months, a rectal temperature of 102°F (39.0°C) or higher

    • In a child of any age who has a temperature of 103°F (39.4°C) or higher

    • A fever that lasts more than 24-hours in a child under 2 years old, or for 3 days in a child 2 years or older

    • Your child has had a seizure caused by the fever

  • Vomiting several times an hour for several hours

  • Bloody vomit

  • Greenish vomit (contains bile)

  • Stomach pain

  • Uncontrolled retching (without producing vomit)

  • Vomiting after taking prescription medication

  • Very forceful vomiting (“projectile” vomiting)

Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration:

  • Listless or lethargic behavior

  • No urine for 6-8 hours or very dark urine

  • Child refuses fluids for 6-8 hours

 

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