Vomiting (throwing up) is most often caused by a virus or stomach bug. Some serious illnesses may also cause vomiting. Vomiting caused by a virus usually lasts only a couple of days. It can often be treated at home.
The main danger from vomiting is dehydration (being dried out). This means that the child has lost too much fluid and does not have enough electrolytes (salts) in their body for it to work the right way. It is most important for your child to drink plenty of liquids to prevent dehydration.
Do not lay your baby on their stomach to sleep because they are vomiting. They are still safest sleeping on their backs. Toddlers may sleep on their side or stomach with their heads turned.
Liquids You May Give
Older children often do well with water or clear liquids to prevent dehydration. Your child may need to drink an ORS (oral rehydration solution) like Pedialyte®. An ORS helps replace the electrolytes and fluids that your child needs. Home remedies should not be used instead. ORS store brands are just as good as a brand name. You can buy ORS in liquid or powder form or as popsicles at most pharmacies without a prescription.
ORS should not be given as the only fluid for more than 6 hours. Do not dilute or mix an ORS with formula.
Children Younger Than 1 Year of Age:
- ORS (oral rehydration solution)
- Breast milk or formula mixed the normal way (if tolerated)
- No water except when used to make formula
- Do not give fruit juices or liquids that are high in sugar, such as Hawaiian Punch®, Hi-C®, Kool-Aid®, sodas or syrups. Do not give teas or broths. These liquids do not have the right mix of electrolytes and can make your child feel worse.
Children Older Than 1 Year of Age:
Same as above and:
- ice popsicles made from ORS
- milk, if tolerated
- flavored gelatin cube
How to Give Liquids
When your child is vomiting:
- Offer clear liquids after your child has not vomited for 30 to 60 minutes. This allows the stomach to rest.
- Breastfeeding should not be stopped. Try to nurse your baby more often.
- If needed, you can stop giving formula if giving ORS. Aim to restart formula as soon as possible.
- Start slow (Picture 1). Give small sips of liquids often. This may reduce the vomiting.
- For children under 1 year: use a spoon or syringe to give 1 to 2 teaspoons every few minutes (5 to 10 mL).
- For older than 1 year: give ½ to 1 ounce (1 to 2 tablespoons or 15 to 30 mL) every 20 minutes for a few hours.
- As your child begins to take liquids, gradually increase the amount. If they still vomit, wait 30 to 60 minutes and start again.
- Do not force your child to drink or wake them up to drink if they are sleeping.
- Do not give any kind of milk or yogurt drinks until the vomiting has stopped for 8 hours.
Amount of Liquid to Give to Prevent Dehydration
Minimum Goal to Give Every Hour*
At least 2 ounces (4 tablespoons or ¼ cup)
At least 2½ ounces (5 tablespoons)
At least 3½ ounces (½ cup)
At least 6½ ounces (¾ cup)
At least 10 ounces of liquid every hour (1¼ cups per hour)
* Minimum fluid goals per hour may increase if vomiting, diarrhea or fever are present.
- When children are vomiting, they usually do not feel like eating solid food. It will not hurt them to miss a few meals as long as they are able to drink enough fluids. They can eat if they are up to it.
- After about 6 to 8 hours of giving clear liquids and your child is no longer vomiting, try to get your child to start eating some food. Starchy foods like cereals, crackers or bread are easier to digest. Avoid foods high in sugar and greasy fried foods.
Other Things to Know
Medicine: Some medicines used for vomiting in older children or adults are very dangerous for young children. WARNING: Do not give your child any medicine unless your doctor or health provider tells you it is safe for the age of your child.
Sleep: It is important that your child get plenty of rest. Sleep helps the stomach to finish digesting any food in it and may calm your child’s vomiting.
Preventing the Spread of Infection
You can help stop the spread of viruses and protect others by:
- Washing your hands often and after touching your child, their eating utensils, or anything that might have vomit on it. Use soap and water or a hand sanitizer (Picture 2).
- Make sure your child washes their hands well after using the toilet.
- Do not share eating utensils, toys or clothing. Wash them in hot, soapy water after each use.
- Use clean wipes or washcloths for each diaper change. Put diaper in the diaper pail or trash immediately.
- Clean hard surfaces with disinfectant or an antimicrobial wipe. Let dry for 15 seconds.
When to Call the Doctor
Call your child's doctor if you think your child is getting worse, does not get any better in 24 hours, will not breastfeed or shows these signs:
- Vomit has blood, dark brown specks that look like coffee grounds or is bright green.
- Vomiting gets more severe or happens more often.
- Your child shows signs of dehydration (Picture 3):
- No wet diaper or does not urinate (pass water) for 6 or more hours, very dark urine
- No tears when crying
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Hard or fast breathing
- Sunken-looking eyes
- Soft spot on baby’s head is flat, sunken or pulls in.
- Constant abdominal pain (bellyache)
- Hard to wake up (lethargic), acts confused or does not know what they are doing.
- Your child has a high fever. Use a digital thermometer and wash thoroughly after each use.
- for age 3 months or younger, a rectal (in baby’s bottom) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher.
- for any age, a temperature over 102°F (38.9°C) that lasts more than 2 days. Take rectal, ear or axillary (armpit) temperatures in infants 4 months of age or older. When your child reaches 4 years of age, oral (mouth) temperatures are OK.
HH-I-71 5/14, Revised 2020 | Copyright 1977, Nationwide Children’s Hospital