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Most vomiting in infants and children is caused by a viral infection of the stomach (viral gastroenteritis). Occasionally, it may be caused by eating something that is spoiled (food poisoning). Vomiting usually lasts less than 24 hours. Treatment is directed towards preventing dehydration. Diarrhea frequently accompanies vomiting. It, too, is usually caused by a virus although it may occasionally be caused by bacteria (for example Salmonella). Diarrhea can last a lot longer than vomiting (a few days to a week). Again, treatment is directed towards preventing dehydration.

While the child is still vomiting intermittently, you should try to rehydrate with small frequent feeds of clear fluids, preferably electrolyte-containing solutions (Pedialyte, Gatorade). Large volumes can induce vomiting.

Infants (Bottle-fed)
For young children, Pedialyte is a good fluid. However it should not be used for more than 24 hours without consulting a physician. Give small amounts (1-2 oz at a time). If this is unsuccessful, try 1-2 teaspoons every 10-15 minutes. After 4 hours without vomiting, slowly increase the amount. After 8 hours without vomiting, you may return to giving formula. Reintroduce a normal diet in 24 hours. With severe diarrhea your doctor may recommend giving a lactose-free formula for several days or until the diarrhea subsides.

Infants (Breast-fed)
Provide breast milk in smaller amounts. Your goal is to avoid completely filling the stomach. If your child vomits frequently, try nursing on only one side every 1-2 hours. If vomiting persists, nurse for five minutes every 30-60 minutes. After 8 hours without vomiting, return to routine breast feeding. If the vomiting is persistent you may also try giving Pedialyte 1-2 teaspoons every 10-15 minutes (and pumping your breasts) for several hours. Breast feeding may be resumed if the baby has tolerated the Pedialyte feeds for 2-3 hours without vomiting.

Older Children
For older children Gatorade, diluted to 1/2 strength with water, is better than either soda or juice. Pedialyte ice pops also work very well. Initially, do not attempt to feed the child solid foods while the child is still vomiting. The key is encouraging small amounts of clear liquids every 10-15 minutes. If your child continues to vomit, hold liquids for 1-2 hours than reintroduce slowly. Feeding of solids can be reintroduced once vomiting has ceased for 8 hours. Start with bland, starchy foods at first. For persistent diarrhea foods such as shredded wheat and peanut butter can slow gastrointestinal transit time and help bulk up the stools.

When to call the Physician:

  • If vomiting persists for greater than 24 hours
  • If your child does not urinate for greater than 8 hours
  • If you notice blood in the stools
  • If your child develops severe abdominal pain
  • If you child looks very ill

Category: Common Illnesses

← Vomiting and Diarrhea