Vomiting can be scary in little children. Thankfully, most vomiting episodes are caused by tummy bugs and as long as your child stays hydrated, they will usually get better on their own.
Visit an emergency room for:
There are a few causes of vomiting that warrant a visit to an emergency room.
- More than 1 episode of vomiting after a head injury, especially if your child is particularly irritable or fussy
- Vomit that is entirely the color of grass (assuming your child didn’t just eat a huge salad and pesto sauce), especially in young infants
- Bloody vomit (not just flecks of blood) where the vomit looks like and has the consistency of blood
- Vomiting and severe dehydration with greater than 10% weight loss, dry sticky mouth, sunken eyes, sleepy or difficult to rouse
Repeated episodes of very forceful vomiting in infants, particularly after they eat, need to be evaluated urgently by a provider. They don’t require an ER visit initially, but this may be where your child ends up depending on the initial evaluation.
These instances aside, you don’t need an urgent provider visit for your child for vomiting. Something to consider, though, is that pediatricians are often able to prescribe a special medicine to help slow or stop vomiting called Zofran. Even if you’re not yet worried about dehydration, this medication can come in handy to help head off this outcome.
For a vomiting child, the biggest mistake a parent can make is to stop giving them fluids.
Fluids should be given in frequent small sips (even up to 1 tsp every 5 minutes!) to prevent dehydration.
The best fluid for oral rehydration is called Pedialyte and is available over the counter. Other options include popsicles, both Pedialyte and regular popsicles, as well as jell-o, which has a high water content. Apple juice, diluted half and half with water, can help with hydration as well.
As long as your child seems well hydrated to you as defined by:
- More than 4-5 wet diapers in 24hr for children under 1 year old
- More than 3-4 wet diapers in 24hr for children 1-2 years old
- More than 3 voids in 24hr for children older than 2 years old
You’re generally okay to watch and wait.
If your child is not meeting these criteria, has dry lips or mouth, or their vomit contains flecks of blood, they should be seen same day by a provider.