treat vomiting in children
Health and safety

Treat vomiting in children

It is normal for babies and children to vomit. In most cases, the vomiting will last no longer than one to two days and is usually not a sign of anything serious. Find out how you can treat vomiting in children to help them to feel better.

Vomiting in children

Vomiting can be a very frightening experience for a young child. A high temperature, amongst other unpleasant symptoms, can often accompany vomiting, which can add to the misery for an already unwell child.

Vomiting is the body’s way of expelling potentially dangerous toxins before they cause us harm. While there is little that can be done to stop vomiting, there are ways of both preventing it in some situations and making the unwell child feel as comfortable as possible in such unpleasant circumstances.

Rehydration is crucial when vomiting occurs. You child loses salts, fluids and calories when they vomit due to gastroenteritis. While a child may feel parched after a bout of vomiting, encourage them to sip water slowly, rather than gulp a glass of it back, as their stomach will be sensitive. Drinking too much water too quickly may trigger another bout of vomiting.

Often when a child has finished vomiting, their upset stomach’s gurgling, coupled with its emptiness, may be confused for hunger.

What to do

1. Avoid giving your child solid foods, at this stage it is more important to replace lost fluids. If your child is struggling to keep fluids down, ice cubes to suck are a good alternative (only consider this alternative for a child old enough not to choke).

2. Increase the amount of fluids your child is able for as soon as it becomes apparent that the vomiting has stopped. Water is always the best option to begin with, as fruit juices can be harsh on an upset tummy and if your child also has diarrhoea, it can make it worse. Carbonated sugary drinks should also be avoided. Ask your doctor or pharmacist’s advice on giving your child oral rehydration sachets. These provide the right balance of essential salts and fluids that are lost due to vomiting.

3. Breastfed babies should continue to feed, but reducing the length of the feeds and increasing their frequency will aid rehydration. Likewise, a formula fed baby can continue to have feeds in a similar fashion. Babies can get dehydrated very quickly, so watch for signs of this, such as dry nappies for an extended period, or a sunken fontanelle. Introduce foods gradually.

treating vomiting in children

Once your child starts to show an improvement, has been able to take fluids for an extended period of time without vomiting and is showing signs of regaining an appetite, you can gradually reintroduce solid foods. With younger children, begin with something bland, such as baby rice, mashed banana, or stewed apple. An older child may like some toast. The BRATY diet, an often recommended vomiting recovery diet for children, is a good list from which to start choosing foods. Bananas, rice, applesauce (puréed apple), toast and yoghurt (plain) are all neutral foods to start back on solids.

When to seek immediate medical attention

In cases where vomiting is severe and shows no signs of stopping, or in the following situations, it is necessary to contact your doctor or hospital emergency department:

  • If a baby under the age of one has a sunken fontanelle or hasn’t produced a wet nappy within four hours.
  • If an infant under three months vomits after every attempt to feed.
  • If your child has severe stomach pains, headache, neck stiffness, a raised temperature, sensitivity to light or skin rashes.
  • If you child is vomiting as a result of a head injury.
  • If your child is vomiting blood or bile.
  • If the child is floppy, irritable, won’t eat their food, or they are not their usual self.
  • If your child has been vomiting for more than 24 hours and/or has not been able to hold down fluids for the last eight hours, or you think they are dehydrated.

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Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.