How to handle a child’s vomiting

January and February are typically times when pediatrician offices are swamped with calls: Children have caught some kind of bug or the flu that is causing vomiting. As a parent, what do you do?

Most of the time, vomiting just needs to run its course. During that time, you can help your child stay hydrated and as comfortable as possible.

“The main thing you need to do is keep your child hydrated,” said Jameel T. Clark, M.D., Norton Children’s Medical Associates – Dixie. “It’s hard to do, especially when everything that goes down comes back up right away.”

Dr. Clark offers some tips:

  1. After your child has gone one hour without vomiting, offer a frozen pop.
  2. If the frozen pop stays down, have your child sip a kids’ electrolyte drink or a sports drink — but only in very small amounts at a time.
  3. If all goes well for about three hours, offer some saltines.
  4. The next step is bland food such as plain pasta or toast with jelly. Avoid dairy products, including butter, or anything else that has high fat content.
  5. After about 24 hours without vomiting, slowly start to resume a normal diet. Dairy products should be the last thing added.

“It may take a while for your child’s appetite to come back and that’s normal,” Dr. Clark said.

While a child is vomiting, he or she may be extremely thirsty or not want to drink at all.

“Your child may want to gulp water,” Dr. Clark said. “But that can cause the vomiting to continue. Small, frequent sips of liquids are more likely to be tolerated.”

If he or she isn’t interested in drinking at all, that can cause issues as well. Watch for signs of severe dehydration, which can be a medical emergency. Symptoms can include decreased urination, sunken eyes, dry skin and confusion or extreme tiredness. If these occur, seek medical care immediately.

Tired of changing sheets and clothes? Many times children are able to make it to the bathroom to vomit in the toilet. They just need to be told what to do — very specifically. If your child is worried, provide a bucket or large bowl to have handy nearby.

When to get medical attention for vomiting

There are some instances when the child should be seen at the nearest emergency department. These are:

  • If your child is not urinating as much, has dry mouth and lips, and is not producing tears; he or she may be dehydrated.
  • If the vomit is bloody or dark green; this could mean an obstruction in the intestines.

“Vomiting caused by a stomach bug usually doesn’t last long,” Dr. Clark said. “If vomiting lasts longer than 48 to 72 hours, if a headache develops along with the vomiting, or if you’re at all concerned about your child’s vomiting, call your pediatrician.”

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Norton Children's Medical Associates – Dixie

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