What to Do About Your Toddler's Frequent Vomiting

Parent cuddling sick toddler
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Is your child throwing up several times a week but does not appear to be feeling ill otherwise? Surprisingly, this is a common occurrence in younger children. Some toddlers vomit when having a tantrum or just crying. Others vomit when they have too much food in their mouth. And some vomit for no known reason at all.

Possible Causes

Persistent vomiting in young children can have many potential causes. Here are some of the most common:

  • Appendicitis: Along with migrating abdominal pain, mild fever, and loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting are among the most common symptoms of appendicitis.
  • Carsickness: A common form of motion sickness, carsickness is sometimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, cold sweat, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
  • Concussion: Concussions are serious brain injuries caused by a blow to the head and can be accompanied by vomiting.
  • Food allergy or intolerance: Nausea, vomiting, cramping, and diarrhea are among some of the possible symptoms of a food allergy and intolerance.
  • Food poisoning: Vomiting is a common symptom of food-borne illness and is usually accompanied by diarrhea and stomach pain.
  • Gastroenteritis: Gastroenteritis is a stomach "flu" commonly caused by the rotavirus in children that causes vomiting and diarrhea that can last up to a week.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Though less common than symptoms like nausea, GERD can cause vomiting in some cases.
  • Infections: Vomiting can also sometimes be associated with other types of infection including pneumonia, meningitis, and urinary tract infections (UTI).
  • Intestinal obstruction: A blockage in the intestines can cause forceful vomiting.
  • Medications: Certain medications are known to cause vomiting as an unpleasant side effect, especially on an empty stomach.
  • Poison: Consumption of a toxic chemical or substance can induce vomiting.
  • Pyloric stenosis: Pyloric stenosis is a condition that affects babies up to 6 months old in which a narrowing of the lower part of the stomach prevents food from passing through to the small intestine causing forceful vomiting.
  • Sensitive gag reflex: A sensitive gag reflex can trigger retching and/or vomiting.
  • Stress: Acute stress, such as during a tantrum, and anxiety can cause vomiting.

What You Can Do

It's natural to feel uncertain and even panicked when your child vomits unexpectedly. Try to remain calm and remember these tips to keep your toddler safe, comfortable, and hydrated.

Check for Dehydration

Dehydration happens when you lose more liquids than you take in, depleting the body of the essential fluids it needs to function. Severe vomiting and diarrhea are the leading causes of dehydration in young children.

While drinking fluids is usually enough to reverse mild dehydration, severe dehydration is a serious problem that requires immediate medical treatment.

Signs of dehydration in young children include:

  • No tears when crying
  • No wet diapers for at least three hours
  • Sunken cheeks or eyes
  • Dry mouth and/or tongue

Start Fluids

Rehydration is the replacement of lost fluids and electrolytes. To safely rehydrate young children ages 1 and up, start by giving small amounts of clear liquids every 15 minutes.

You can use small sips of water, ice chips, broth, and electrolyte drinks, but avoid sodas, juices, and sports drinks because they contain too much sugar. If vomiting continues, try smaller amounts of liquid.

After eight hours without vomiting, you can introduce small amounts of solid foods. Saltine crackers, mashed potatoes, and other bland foods are best. Once vomiting has stopped for 24 hours, your child can return to their regular diet.

Keep a Symptom Diary

After looking at the many possible causes of vomiting in toddlers, you may feel more confused than when you started. Consider keeping a symptom diary to help you and your child's pediatrician zero in on the cause of your child's vomiting.

A symptom diary is nothing more than a record of how and when your child's vomiting occurred. Every time your child has a vomiting spell, write down:

  • The date
  • The time of day
  • How long the episode lasted
  • If the vomit contained solids, liquids, or both
  • The last thing the child had to eat or drink
  • Other symptoms like fever, belly pain, or diarrhea

Call the Pediatrician

Frequent, unexplained vomiting that can't be attributed to a less serious cause always warrants a call to the doctor. Have your symptom diary ready when you make that call and bring it with you to your appointment as well.

If the cause isn't immediately apparent, your pediatrician may order blood tests, urine tests, stool cultures, or X-rays to make a clear diagnosis.

If you are not comfortable with the pediatrician's diagnosis or treatment, or your child's vomiting continues, consider seeing a pediatric gastroenterologist for a second opinion and more advanced testing.

Signs Vomiting May Be an Emergency

While vomiting in young children is not usually serious, it is important to recognize the signs they need immediate medical attention.

Signs vomiting may be serious:

  • Blood in the vomit
  • Blood in urine
  • Confusion and lethargy
  • Headache and/or neck stiffness
  • Intense stomach pain
  • Pain while urinating
  • Projectile or forceful vomiting
  • Rapid pulse or breathing
  • Vomiting accompanied by a fever
  • Vomiting when your child resumes their normal diet

Always call poison control immediately if your child consumed a harmful substance, regardless of their symptoms. If you can trace vomiting back to a fall or impact to the head, take them to the emergency room right away.

A Word From Verywell

It's natural to feel helpless when your child has a bout of frequent vomiting. But it's important to stay calm so you can provide the proper care. Watch for signs of dehydration if they can't stop throwing up or aren't able to sip small amounts of water. Call your pediatrician to discuss your child's symptoms and determine if a visit is necessary.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes vomiting with no other symptoms?

Vomiting has many causes. If your child is throwing up with no other symptoms, they may be experiencing motion sickness, they could have worked themselves into a tantrum, or they may have triggered an especially sensitive gag reflex. Most other conditions associated with vomiting come with other symptoms such as belly pain, diarrhea, or fever.

How do I settle my toddler's stomach after vomiting?

Gently introduce small amounts of clear liquids until your child can hold them down. Once they can tolerate clear liquids for at least eight hours without vomiting, you can add bland foods. Remember the acronym B.R.A.T. It stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast—all gentle options after vomiting or diarrhea.

Children ages 2 and younger should avoid Pepto-Bismol (bismuth subsalicylate) and any products formulated for adults containing bismuth subsalicylate because of the risk of a rare but serious condition called Reye's syndrome.

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