Before you become a parent, you avoid bodily fluids at any cost. The next thing you know, you reach toward your kids to catch their puke. Gross, but true, and for some parents, dealing with vomit is all too common.
So if you have a “thrower-upper”—or wonder what’s with the random kid/nephew/neighbor who seems to be sick all the time—there are plenty of reasons why a child may be prone to vomiting. Here’s a look at common reasons, and when you should be concerned about too much upchuck.
If you’re a new mom or dad, you just might be covered in spit-up. Infants and babies spit up sometimes several times a day, and often right after eating. “Babies are much more likely to bring up milk or food,” explains Praveen Goday, MD, Best Doctors consultant and pediatric specialist at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. “But this is usually without the force of regurgitation, so it is more reflux as opposed to vomiting,” he clarifies. He terms these young ones “happy spitters” (even if the parents aren’t so happy to be covered with the smelly, sticky substance).
If your child is older than 2 and is prone to vomiting, notice if it happens while you’re in motion on a car, airplane, or boat. “These children—and sometimes adults—get dizzy, complain of nausea, and can vomit,” Dr. Goday says. After you’ve cleaned up the mess, look on the bright side: Motion sickness tends to increase in frequency until about 10 years old, and then gradually declines throughout life.
If your child suffers from discomfort and throwing up during these times, “A variety of medications and other remedies can be used to try to prevent or treat motion sickness,” he adds. Teladoc Health physicians can help come up with a treatment plan when you’re on the go so stomach disturbances don’t ruin all the fun.
Other kids may have what’s nicknamed “a weak stomach,” meaning they often gag or vomit when they come across smells or sights that are unpleasant to them, Dr. Goday explains. Even a surprising or upsetting event can trigger a puking episode. There’s no cause for concern or treatment for these troublesome situations.
Aggravated by eating
While babies may struggle to digest breast milk, formula, or other starter foods, throwing up could also signal a food allergy in kids. Food allergies affect about 6 to 8 percent of children under age 3.1 Eating products with peanuts, tree nuts, egg, milk, wheat, soy, or shellfish can lead to vomiting (or other symptoms like difficulty breathing, swallowing, or hives). If you think your child could have a food allergy, discuss the triggers and symptoms with a doctor right away.
Other times, our kids can simply have an upset stomach after food they have eaten. Maybe they ate too much sugar, or topped a big meal off with an unsettling treat. These types of episodes are not usually cause for concern.
Suffering through sickness
This time of year, sickness surrounds us and is common in schools and daycare centers—really, everywhere children gather. Viral illnesses are likely to cause vomiting in kids, along with fever or other cough and cold symptoms, Dr. Goday explains. “The vomiting usually lasts for a day and may be accompanied or followed by diarrhea,” he says.
This can include gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the digestive track. A disrupted stomach could mean a lot of vomiting while the sickness runs its course. The biggest concern with frequent bouts of vomiting is dehydration, or loss of vital nutrients and water in the body.
If your child does not appear to be dehydrated—he has a wet mouth and is not complaining of being thirsty—try to give some liquids like juice or water between bouts of vomit, Dr. Goday recommends. If he’s thirsty and has a dry mouth, give an oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte), and go slowly, starting with a tablespoon at a time.
“Children who are more dehydrated—there hasn’t been urine for six or more hours, you notice sunken eyes, or cool or clammy hands and feet—should be assessed by a doctor, Dr. Goday says. He also recommends seeking help for any type of vomiting that lasts for more than 48 hours, or more urgently if the vomit is dark green or bloody.
In general, if your child is vomiting or regurgitating regularly after the first year of life, Dr. Goday says a medical assessment could help. “Any child who vomits regularly—either once or twice a day or has episodes of vomiting that are spread weeks or months apart—should be under medical evaluation.”
If you need help managing your child’s upset stomach, our U.S. board-certified physicians are here to help you with recovery 24/7. Don’t wait for wellness: Reach out online, by phone, or through our mobile app quickly and easily so you can get back to caring for your kid.
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