Vomiting can be caused by many things. Most of the time, vomiting in children is caused by gastroenteritis, usually due to a virus infecting the gastrointestinal tract. Gastroenteritis, often called the "stomach flu," also can cause nausea and diarrhea.
These infections usually don't last long and are more disruptive than dangerous. However, kids (especially infants) who cannot take in enough fluids and also have diarrhea could become dehydrated.
It's important to stay calm — vomiting is frightening to young children (and parents, too) and exhausting for kids of all ages. Reassuring your child and preventing dehydration are key for a quick recovery.
Over-the-counter medications to treat nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not recommended for infants and children. Doctors might recommend medication for nausea or vomiting in certain situations, but these are available only by prescription.
Oral rehydration is something parents can do at home to help prevent dehydration or treat mild cases. Talk to your doctor, especially if you think your child is dehydrated, as you might be given alternate instructions on how to orally rehydrate your child.
Oral Rehydration Tips
For Infants Younger Than 6 Months
- Avoid giving plain water to an infant unless your doctor directly specifies an amount.
- Offer your baby small but frequent amounts — about 2-3 teaspoons, or up to ½ ounce (about 20 milliliters) — of an oral electrolyte solution every 15-20 minutes with a spoon or an oral syringe. Oral electrolyte solutions (available at most supermarkets or pharmacies and also called oral electrolyte maintenance solutions) are balanced with salts to replace what's lost from vomiting or diarrhea, and they also contain some sugar. It's especially important for infants that any fluids given have the correct salt balance (unflavored electrolyte solutions are best).
- Gradually increase the amount of solution you're giving if your infant is able to keep it down for more than a couple of hours without vomiting. For instance, if your little one takes 4 ounces (or about 120 milliliters) normally per feeding, slowly work up to giving this amount of oral electrolyte solution over the course of the day.
- Do not give more solution at a time than your baby would normally eat — this will overfill an already irritated tummy and likely cause more vomiting.
- After your infant goes for more than about 8 hours without vomiting, reintroduce formula slowly if your infant is formula-fed. Start with small (½-1 ounce, or about 20-30 milliliters), more frequent feeds and slowly work up to the normal feeding routine. If your infant already eats baby cereal, it's OK to start solid feedings in small amounts again.
- If your infant is exclusively breastfeeding and vomits (not just spits up, but vomits what seems like the entire feeding) more than once, then breastfeed for a total of 5-10 minutes every 2 hours. If your infant is still vomiting, call your doctor. After 8 hours without vomiting, you can resume breastfeeding normally.
- If your infant is under 2 months old and vomiting (not just spitting up) all feedings, call your doctor immediately.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
© 1995-2009 The Nemours Foundation. All rights reserved.
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