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Part 4: Keeping Your Child Healthy  >  The A-Z of Childhood Illnesses  >  Vomiting


Vomiting In Normal Children

Quite a few small infants as well as older children vomit once or more during the course of the day but remain otherwise well. It seems that they have a rather more sensitive vomiting centre in the brain. They vomit even if they seem to have no other problem. They vomit if they are excited, unhappy, fearful or because of any illness. The vomiting becomes less frequent as these children grow and then stops without any special treatment.

Parents must not show undue anxiety when the child vomits. This may make matters worse. A typical scene is witnessed when a child is getting late for his school bus and his mother wants him to finish his glass of milk. He tries to gulp it in a hurry and brings most of it up. Giving solids before the child is ready for them, or forced feeding in children are other common causes. The child should never be forced to eat or drink in such situations. Older children should be put to bed early at night so that they get up well in advance, before the school bus arrives. If the child hates to drink milk in the morning, do not insist that he has it.

Even if there is enough time, an occasional child does not want to eat anything in the morning. In general, I would like children not to go to school on an empty stomach. I would suggest offering the child some fruit or fruit juice. If he refuses that, give him some healthy snacks (fresh fruits, dry fruits, nuts, or a sandwich made with whole wheat bread) to take to school for his short recess.

Some infants swallow a lot of air while feeding and bring out milk quite often after a feed. Some are helped by burping. Others vomit as soon as they are lifted up to be burped. Check the position of these babies at the breast so that they have enough of the areola (the dark portion of the breast behind the nipple) in their mouth.

If bottle-fed, change over to cup feeding (which is better than spoon feeding). If you must bottle-feed, check that the hole in the nipple is not too small.

Some babies bring up curds after each feed or after some of the feeds. They are otherwise well — thriving, active and passing urine normally. This is called possetting and is normal. Nothing should be attempted to set it right. Maybe you can buy some more bibs!

However, consult your doctor if your child is dehydrated following vomiting. He may like to treat the cause and give intravenous fluids if required. 

A dehydrated child looks sick and passes too little, dark urine. You should be equally concerned if he shows lack of alertness or behaves as if he were not fully conscious. This could be due to meningitis.

Three Common Causes Needing Attention

  • Obstruction of the intestinal tract due to surgical conditions
  • Infection
  • Head injury

Obstruction Of The Intestinal Tract Due To Surgical Conditions
Consider the possibility of an intestinal obstruction if a small baby brings up green vomit. Do not give this child anything to eat or drink and take him to your doctor. Such children may also have distension of the abdomen and dehydration.

In a condition called pyloric stenosis, the child may present with white projectile vomiting and failure to gain weight.

An intussusception and appendicitis discussed under Abdominal Pain are also to be kept in mind.

An infection of the stomach and intestine (gastroenteritis) is the commonest infection resulting in diarrhoea and vomiting. This is discussed at length in the chapter on Home Remedies.

Suspect hepatitis (see Hepatitis) if your toddler or older child has developed marked loss of appetite and passes high coloured urine.

A small baby who stops taking his feeds, vomits and looks unwell may have septicaemia — a serious type of infection. It may or may not be accompanied by fever.

An infant showing the above symptoms with a bulging soft spot (anterior fontanelle) on the head, with or without stiffness of the neck, may have meningitis, needing urgent treatment (see Meningitis). 

Children with whooping cough also tend to vomit after a severe bout of coughing. Ear and urinary infection may also be associated with vomiting.

Seasonal vomiting, probably due to a viral infection, may affect a large number of children in a city. These children do not have any of the serious features mentioned above and settle down with symptomatic treatment of the vomiting in 2 to 3 days.

Some other causes of vomiting are poisoning, travel sickness, gastro-oesophageal reflux and migraine. Some children with allergy to artificial milk can get a severe attack of vomiting with even small intake of milk. Many drugs, like antibiotics and drugs for diarrhoea and other illnesses, may cause vomiting.

Head Injury
One vomit after a head injury in a child who is otherwise well can be ignored. But the doctor must be consulted if the child continues to vomit.

Blood In Vomit
Some children bring out a streak of blood with a forceful vomit. This need not cause undue anxiety. But if it becomes a common feature, your doctor would consider the possibility of conditions like hiatus hernia. Of course, if bleeding is also noticed from other sites, a bleeding disorder has to be kept in mind.

TREATMENT: Treatment depends upon the cause. No drug for vomiting should be given without the advice of your doctor. If your doctor decides to give a medicine to check vomiting, do not give anything by mouth for an hour. By then, the drug will have started acting and you can give small amounts of a drink or the child’s favourite fruit or food. Do not give too much at a time. Give small amounts but offer them at frequent intervals.

A child may occasionally get a peculiar side effect due to the commonly used drugs for vomiting. He may roll his eyes upwards and his whole body may go into tonic spasms. Fortunately, almost all cases recover after the drug is stopped. Some patients are given another medicine to counteract the effect of the earlier drug.

7 March, 2016

Part 4
The A-Z of Childhood Illnesses

Abdominal Pain
Abrasions or Scratches
Acute Glomerulonephritis
Acute Nephritis
Acute Watery Diarrhoea
Anorexia (Poor Appetite)
Bed-Wetting (Enuresis)
Birth Deformities
Bites and Stings
Bone, Joint and Muscle Injuries
Bowlegs and Knock-Knees
Calcium Deficiency
Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation
Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Cleft Lip and Palate
Common Cold
Congenital Heart Disease
Convulsions or Fits or Seizures
Dengue Fever
Diabetes Mellitus
Diarrhoea, Dysentery ...
Down's Syndrome
Earache, Ear Infections ...
Electric Shock
Eye Problems
Foot Problems
German Measles (Rubella)
Glands in the Neck ...
Head Injury
Influenza (Flu)
Joint Disorders
Limp and Pain in the Legs
Malnutrition (Undernutrition)
Menstrual Problems
Mental Retardation (MR)
Mouth To Mouth Breathing
Nephrotic Syndrome
Nose-Related Problems
Premature Baby
Prolapse of the Rectum
Rheumatic Fever
Rheumatoid Arthritis
Short Child
Skin Conditions
Sleep and Sleep Problems
Sore Throat (Pharyngitis)
Stridor (Noisy Breathing)
Teething and Care of Teeth
Tetanus (Lock Jaw)
Tracheoesophageal Fistula
Tropical Eosinophilia
Tuberculosis (TB)
Umbilical Problems
Undescended Testis
Urinary Infection
Vaginal Discharge
Whooping Cough (Pertusis)

Part 4
Keeping Your Child Healthy
Choosing A Paediatrician
Proper Use of Medicines
Home Remedies
A First Aid Kit
The A-Z of Childhood Illnesses
Psychological Concerns
Managing A Hospital Stay
Prayer And Your Child's Health
The Role of Nature Cure
Ayurveda and Child Care
Congenital Heart Disease FAQ
Guide to Child Care
1 Pregnancy, Childbirth ...
2 The Growing Years
3 Feeding Infants, ...
4 Keeping Your Child Healthy
5 Keeping Your Child Happy
About Dr. R. K. Anand

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