HealthSheets™


What to Do When Your Child Is Vomiting

Father giving sick child in bed water by spoonfuls.

When your child vomits (throws up), it’s normal to be concerned or worried. But vomiting is usually not due to a major health problem. Vomiting is most often caused by viral infection or food poisoning. It usually lasts only a day or two. The biggest concern when your child is vomiting is dehydration (too little fluid in the body). This sheet tells you what you can do to help your child feel better and stay hydrated.

How is vomiting treated at home?

  • Stomach rest. Keep your child from eating or drinking for 30 to 60 minutes after vomiting. This gives your child’s stomach a chance to recover.

  • Replacing fluids. Dehydration can be a problem when your child is vomiting. Begin replacing fluids after your child has not vomited for 30 to 60 minutes. To do this: 

    • Wait until your child feels well enough to ask for a drink. Don’t force your child to drink if he or she still feels unwell. And don’t wake your child to drink if he or she is sleeping.

    • Start by giving your child very small amounts (1/2 oz or less) of fluid every 5 to 10 minutes. Use a teaspoon instead of a glass to give fluids.

    • Use water or another clear, noncarbonated liquid. Breast milk may be given if your child is breastfeeding.

    • If your child vomits the fluid, wait at least another 30 minutes. Then begin again with a very small amount of fluid every 5 to 10 minutes.

    • If your child is having trouble swallowing liquids, offer frozen juice bars or ice chips.

    • Pedialyte or another rehydration drink may be used if your child is dehydrated from repeated vomiting.

  • Solid food.  If your child is hungry and asking for food, try giving small amounts of a bland food. This includes crackers, dry cereal, rice, or noodles. Avoid giving your child greasy, fatty, or spicy foods for a few days as your child recovers.

  • Medicines. If your child has a fever, ask your healthcare provider if you can give an over-the-counter medicine, such as acetaminophen. These medicines may also be available in suppository form if your child is still vomiting. Talk with your pharmacist to learn more. Don’t give your child aspirin to relieve a fever. Using aspirin to treat a fever in children could cause a serious condition called Reye syndrome. Also, ibuprofen is not approved for infants under 6 months of age.

When to call your child's healthcare provider

Call your child's healthcare provider right away if your otherwise healthy child has any of the following:

  • Fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Vomiting several times an hour for several hours

  • Bloody vomit

  • Greenish vomit (contains bile)

  • Stomach pain

  • Uncontrolled retching (without producing vomit)

  • Vomiting after taking prescription medicine

  • Very forceful vomiting (projectile vomiting)

Signs and symptoms of dehydration

  • Listless or lethargic behavior

  • No urine for 6 to 8 hours or very dark urine

  • Child refuses fluids for 6 to 8 hours

  • Dry mouth or sunken eyes

 

Fever and children

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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