A Helpful Guide to Vomiting – When to Worry and What to do about it


Parents have been bringing up lots of questions about what to do when their child vomits. Let me toss out some helpful information on this topic.

Why do we vomit?

Vomiting is a way for the body to get rid of something it doesn’t like. It is a complex process coordinated by a vomiting center located in the brain. This area responds to signals from the body that says it needs to evacuate stomach contents and get rid of the insult on the body.

When do we worry about vomiting? 

  • If it lasts longer than 24 hours
  • If it seems to be projectile or forceful (especially in infants), there is blood in the vomit or it looks bright green, yellow-green or dark like coffee grounds
  • If accompanied by severe belly pain, headache, fever, or dehydration, seek medical attention. This may represent a true emergency. 

How to care for your child

If vomiting occurs once or twice, it is likely due to a stomach virus that will go away in a day or two.

  • Stay calm, so as not to further frighten your child, and make sure your child remains hydrated.
  • Steadily offer small amounts of clear liquids or oral rehydration solutions. Infants under six (6) months require about 2-3 teaspoons of an oral hydrating solution every 15-20 minutes with a spoon or oral syringe when awake, OR
  • Breastfeed for 5 to 10 minutes every two hours until a baby has gone eight (8) hours without vomiting.
  • Older children need about one (1) ounce of clear liquids 2-4 times an hour giving water, an oral rehydration solution, or even frozen popsicles. 
  • Note: Giving solids or large amounts of liquid may simply make vomiting worse in the first 24 hours.
  • If your child has not vomited for at least eight (8) hours, it is probably okay to introduce mild, bland foods back into their diet such as crackers, toast, broth, rice, and mashed potatoes.

Is there a medication to prevent vomiting?

It is rare for your child’s health care professional to prescribe medication to prevent mild vomiting due to a stomach virus or indigestion. The sooner the body rids itself of whatever is bothering it, the better off your child will feel. Delaying this from happening by giving medicine to stop the vomiting may only make matters worse.

Hopefully, tips like these will stay down with you and your child when it comes to knowing what to do and when to worry about your child’s vomiting. 

Lewis First, MD, is Chief of Pediatrics at The University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine. You can also catch “First with Kids” weekly on WOKO 98.9FM and WPTZ Channel 5.

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