Parents and Kids

What Should I Do About My Child Vomiting?

When your child begins to vomit, it can be scary for both the child and adults. Amanda Lloyd, MD, explains why it happens and what to do about it.

Feb. 21, 2022 5   min read

For both children and adults, vomiting is an experience no one wants to go through. When the body is attempting to rid itself of something it sees as harmful, this can trigger episodes of vomiting.

As a pediatrician with Rochester Regional Health, Amanda Lloyd, MD, is very familiar with calls and visits involving children vomiting. She discusses some of the causes, and how to treat the most common type.


Instances of vomiting are often the result of various illnesses. Some of these illnesses are milder in nature, while others can be more serious.

Mild illnesses might include:

  • Gastroenteritis – “stomach flu” (often caused by viruses)
  • Food poisoning
  • Migraine headaches
  • Motion sickness
  • Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD)

In some cases, vomiting may be a sign of a serious condition that requires more urgent attention, such as:

  • Gallstones
  • Pancreatitis
  • Appendicitis
  • New-onset diabetes
  • Pyloric stenosis in young infants
  • Head injuries
  • Meningitis
  • Brain tumors

Signs and symptoms

When diagnosing what is causing vomiting, pediatricians will take a child’s age and their medical history into account.

“It is important to know what was happening around the time when the vomiting first started,” Dr. Lloyd said. “Was there any recent injury? Are there associated symptoms? These are the things we should know.”

With gastrointestinal bugs, children will experience:

  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pain/cramping
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite


One of the things parents or caregivers will want to help their child with after vomiting is the loss of fluids. Make sure your child is replenishing what their body has lost.

Start by giving your child small sips of clear fluids to make sure they can keep it down. Once they are able to hold down liquids such as water, move ahead to drinks that have more flavor. Some examples include Pedialyte, popsicles, or diluted juice.

If an infant under the age of 6 months is vomiting, mothers should still continue breastfeeding or formula feeding. Parents should not give them water; small amounts of Pedialyte are advised.

With more severe cases, if vomiting continues for more than 24 hours and your child is dealing with other symptoms such as fewer tears when crying, a dry mouth, a high fever or a more extended period of not eating, those might need more attention.

Anti-nausea medications are acceptable for children if a parent chooses to give it to their child. If a child starts to have diarrhea, parents should avoid giving them an anti-diarrheal medication such as Immodium.

Gastroenteritis is quite contagious and spreads by touching something contaminated, and then touching food/drinks or your mouth. It also can be spread from sharing foods/drinks with someone who is ill, or if you live in a household with someone ill. 

Calling your pediatrician

Call your child’s physician if your child:

  • Can’t keep fluids down
  • Is urinating less often (babies should have a wet diaper at least every 4-6 hours; older children should pee at least every 6-8 hours)
  • Shows signs of dehydration - dry mouth, crying with no tears, cracked lips, dizziness/lightheadedness, acting very sleepy or less alert than normal
  • High fever
  • Severe stomach/back pain
  • Headache or stiff neck
  • History of recent head injury
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Vomiting lasts more than 24 hours

If the dehydration is severe, a pediatrician may recommend visiting an urgent care or hospital to receive IV fluids.

There are symptoms to look out for that could point to something more serious when happening at the same time as vomiting.

Severe stomach or back pain could be a sign of appendicitis, while a stiff neck or headache might point to meningitis. In the same way, vomiting after a head injury could mean a child suffered a concussion. If any blood is brought up during vomiting, call your pediatrician immediately.

“Generally, it’s messy and gross,” Dr. Lloyd said. “Luckily most cases last 24 hours. It is highly contagious, but it is usually pretty short lived.”

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