Many different things can make kids throw up, including illnesses, motion sickness, stress, and other problems. In most cases, though, vomiting in children is caused by gastroenteritis, an infection of the digestive tract.
Gastroenteritis, often called the "stomach flu," usually is caused by common viruses that we come into contact with every day. Besides causing vomiting, it also can cause nausea and diarrhea.
Gastroenteritis infections usually don't last long and are more disruptive than dangerous. But kids (especially infants) who cannot take in enough fluids and also have diarrhea could become dehydrated, meaning that their bodies lose nutrients and water, leading to further illness.
It's important to stay calm — vomiting is frightening to young children (and parents, too) and exhausting for kids of all ages. Reassuring your child and preventing dehydration are key for a quick recovery.
Giving kids the right fluids at the right time (called "oral rehydration") is the best way to help prevent dehydration or treat mild fluid loss.
When fluids are lost through vomiting or diarrhea, it's important to replace them as soon as possible. The key is drinking small amounts of liquid often to replace water and nutrients that have been lost.
The best liquids for this are oral rehydration solutions — often called oral electrolyte solutions or oral electrolyte maintenance solutions. They have the right balance of fluids and minerals to replace those lost to vomiting and help kids stay hydrated.
Most electrolyte solutions are available at supermarkets or drugstores. If you think your child is at risk for dehydration, call your doctor. He or she might have specific oral rehydration instructions and can advise you on which solution is best for your child.
Note: Over-the-counter medicines to treat nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not recommended for babies and children. In certain situations, doctors might recommend medications for nausea or vomiting but these are available only by prescription.
ice chips or sips of water
flavored oral electrolyte solutions, or add ½ teaspoon (about 3 milliliters) of fruit juice (like orange, apple, pear, or grape juice) to unflavored oral electrolyte solution
frozen oral electrolyte solution popsicles
Vomiting due to gastroenteritis is caused by viruses that can spread to others. So keep your child home from school or childcare until there's been no vomiting for at least 24 hours. And remember that washing hands well and often is the best way to protect your family against many infections.
If your child refuses fluids or if the vomiting continues after you try the suggested rehydration tips, call your doctor. Also, call for any of the signs of dehydration below.
In kids and teens:
Also contact your doctor if you notice any of the following, which could be a sign of an illness more severe than gastroenteritis:
Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: November 2014
|National Safety Council The National Safety Council offers information on first aid, CPR, environmental health, and safety.|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
|Poison Control Centers Use this toll-free number to reach any of the United States' 65 local poison control centers - (800) 222-1222 - or visit the website to find the poison control center nearest you.|
|"Stomach Flu" Having the "stomach flu" usually means spending a lot of time in the bathroom. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|First Aid: Dehydration Kids can become dehydrated when their bodies lose very large amounts of fluids. It's important to replenish fluid losses as quickly as possible.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection marked by severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect your family.|
|Gastrointestinal Infections and Diarrhea Nearly everybody gets diarrhea every once in a while, and it's usually caused by gastrointestinal infections. It's nothing to be embarrassed about. Read this article to learn more.|
|U.S. Poison Control Centers If you have a poisoning emergency, here's the number to know: 1-800-222-1222.|
|Dehydration Your body is about two thirds water. When the water level dips below that level, you could be dehydrated. Read about what causes dehydration, what it does to your body, and how to prevent it.|
|Dehydration Sometimes kids lose fluids and salts through fever, diarrhea, vomiting, or long periods of exercise with excessive sweating. Here are some tips on preventing or treating dehydration.|
|Babysitting: Dealing With Vomiting What should you do if a child you're babysitting starts throwing up? Our tips can help you be prepared.|
|A Kid's Guide to Fever What are fevers? Why do kids get them? Get the facts on temperatures and fevers in this article for kids.|
|Influenza (Flu) Flu symptoms tend to develop quickly and are usually more severe than the typical sneezing and stuffiness of a cold. Yearly vaccination is the best protection against the flu.|
|First Aid: Vomiting Vomiting can be caused by many things, most commonly gastroenteritis (the "stomach flu"). Here's what to do when your child throws up.|
|Food Poisoning Did you ever eat something that made you feel ooky? It might have been food poisoning.|
|E. Coli Undercooked burgers and unwashed produce are among the foods that can harbor E. coli bacteria and lead to infection and severe diarrhea. Here's how to protect yourself.|
|What's Puke? Did you ever toss your cookies? That means throw up, or puke. It's gross, but just about everyone has done it. Find out more in this article for kids.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.