- Vomiting (throwing up) stomach contents
- It's normal for nausea (upset stomach) to come before each bout of vomiting
- Other names for vomiting are puking, barfing and heaving
Causes of Vomiting
- Viral Gastritis. Stomach infection from a stomach virus is the most common cause. Also called stomach flu. A common cause is the Rotavirus. The illness starts with vomiting. Watery loose stools may follow within 12-24 hours.
- Food Poisoning. This causes rapid vomiting within hours after eating the bad food. Diarrhea may follow. Caused by toxins from germs growing in foods left out too long. An example is Staph toxin in egg salad.
- Ibuprofen products (such as Advil) can be a stomach irritant. If taken on an empty stomach, it can cause vomiting.
- Food Allergy. Vomiting can be the only symptom of a food reaction. The vomiting comes on quickly after eating the food. Common foods are peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish (such as shrimp).
- Coughing. Hard coughing can also cause your child to throw up. This is more common in children with reflux.
- Motion Sickness. Vomiting and dizziness are triggered by motion. Sea sickness or fun-park ride sickness are the most common types. Strongly genetic.
- Migraine Headaches. In children, most migraine headaches also have vomiting.
- Serious Causes. Vomiting alone (without diarrhea) should stop within about 24 hours. If it lasts over 24 hours, you must think about more serious causes. Examples are appendicitis, a kidney infection, diabetes and head injury. A serious cause in young babies is pyloric stenosis. See below for more on this.
- Cyclic Vomiting is the most common cause of recurrent attacks of vomiting. Attacks have a sudden onset and offset. Often occur in children who later develop migraine headaches.
Pyloric Stenosis (Serious Cause)
- The most common cause of true vomiting in young babies.
- Onset of vomiting is age 2 weeks to 2 months
- Vomiting is forceful. It becomes projectile and shoots out.
- Right after vomiting, the baby is hungry and wants to feed. ("hungry vomiter")
- Cause: the pylorus is the channel between the stomach and the gut. In these babies, it becomes narrow and tight.
- Risk: weight loss or dehydration
- Treatment: cured by surgery.
- Mild: 1 - 2 times/day
- Moderate: 3 - 7 times/day
- Severe: vomits everything, nearly everything or 8 or more times/day
- Severity relates even more to how long the vomiting goes on for. At the start of the illness, it's common for a child to vomit everything. This can last for 3 or 4 hours. Children then often become stable and change to mild vomiting.
- The main risk of vomiting is dehydration. Dehydration means the body has lost too much fluid.
- The younger the child, the greater the risk for dehydration.
Dehydration: How to Tell
- The main risk of vomiting is dehydration. Dehydration means the body has lost too much water.
- Vomiting with watery diarrhea is the most common cause of dehydration.
- Dehydration is a reason to see a doctor right away.
- Your child may have dehydration if not drinking much fluid and:
- The urine is dark yellow and has not passed any in over 8 hours.
- Inside of the mouth and tongue are very dry.
- No tears if your child cries.
- Slow blood refill test: longer than 2 seconds. First, press on the thumbnail and make it pale. Then let go. Count the seconds it takes for the nail to turn pink again. Ask your doctor to teach you how to do this test.
- A child with severe dehydration becomes too weak to stand. They can also be very dizzy when trying to stand.