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What to Do When Your Child is Vomiting

Vomiting in children is an obvious sign of distress and sickness, but it usually doesn’t mean something is terribly wrong. Unfortunately, children vomit quite a bit, in large part because their immune systems aren’t fully built up.

So what should you do if your child vomits? And when should you bring them to the doctor?

At Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics, we offer comprehensive care for children, including sick visits designed for children who need immediate, same-day care without symptoms severe enough for the emergency room.

In this blog, Nicolette Marak, MD, discusses why children vomit more than adults, causes for vomiting, and how you can help them. 

Why children vomit more

Children and adults have the same mechanism for vomiting, which is called emesis. When the brain receives stomach-upsetting stimuli, certain nerve fibers, called afferents, send signals to the body to expel whatever is in the stomach.

Children vomit more, in part, because they have more sensitive immune systems that havent been battle-tested like their parents’ immune systems. Their afferents also aren’t as well calibrated, so they may send vomit signals based on other stimuli, such as stubbing a toe or whacking their elbow. Thus, it all adds up to a lot more barfing, on average, for children. 

Causes for vomiting

Despite all the different stimuli that can produce vomiting, there are a few main culprits. The most common reasons children vomit are due to the following issues:

However, other things can cause vomiting as well, such as reactions to medications, motion sickness, migraines, and even stress.

Home care

If your child is vomiting, here are some things to keep in mind as you care for them at home.

Don’t force them to eat

It may be your first reaction to try and replace the food that’s been evacuated. However, you shouldn’t make your child eat if they aren’t hungry. It will likely come right back up. In fact, it’s OK for your child to go for up to eight hours without food once they start vomiting.

Once they do get hungry, you can try the BRAT diet. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. But you shouldn’t give your child a BRAT diet for long. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children resume eating a normal diet appropriate for their age within 24 hours of getting sick. The diet should include a mix of vegetables, fruits, meat, yogurt, and complex carbohydrates. Children should also drink plenty of fluids.

Fluids are key

Start replacing the fluid your child has thrown up about 30 minutes after they vomit. Just like food, don’t force your child to drink, and don’t wake them to drink either. Once they’re ready for fluid, start with a small amount of clear liquid every 5-10 minutes. If they vomit the liquid, wait 30 minutes and then try again. Examples of clear liquids include:

Juice, milk, and fizzy drinks should be avoided, although breastfeeding babies may continue feeding if they're up to it.

Seeking medical care

If your child is ill and at-home treatments haven’t helped, Dr. Marak at Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics can help get them on the path to good health. In some cases, however, they may need to go to the emergency room.

Sick visits

Our sick visits are designed for children with urgent medical needs that don’t rise to the level of an emergency room visit. These same-day appointments can help put your child on the road to recovery and give you peace of mind.

Dr. Marak will give your child a thorough evaluation and give you directions on how to care for your child. Dr. Marak will also prescribe medications if necessary.

Emergency care

While most cases of vomiting can be resolved at home or with the help of a sick visit with Dr. Marak, there are some cases when you may need to take your child to an emergency room.

For example, if your child starts vomiting within 24 hours of hitting their head, take them to the emergency room right away, because this could be a sign of concussion. Or, if your child has another kind of illness and they can’t keep anything down — especially if they haven’t peed in 12 hours — then they need to go to the emergency room to get rehydrated. 

If you’re not sure what to do, call Dr. Marak or a medical professional for direction. 

If your child is sick, Dr. Marak can help. To learn more about sick visits, book an appointment online or over the phone with Ross Bridge Medical Center Pediatrics today.

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