All children vomit from time to time, but frequent vomiting should be taken more seriously. Children—especially young children—with frequent vomiting may require admission to the hospital for management of dehydration. In addition, frequent vomiting can cause complications such as bleeding, aspiration of vomit into the lungs and the development of scar tissue that interferes with swallowing.
If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
According to pediatricians Judith M. Sondheimer and Shikha Sundaram in the 2009 edition of “Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics,” viral gastroenteritis or what many people call "stomach flu" accounts for most cases of childhood vomiting 13. Although symptoms are sometimes severe, they are also self-limited, typically resolving within a few days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that there is no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis, so parents should look to prevention through frequent hand washing and safe food handling as a best bet 3.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
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Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, strikes children as well as adults, but triggers vomiting more often in kids. In infants, it’s called “spitting up.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), symptoms usually peak at four months and resolve on their own by 12 months 4. Older children with GERD experience classic symptoms of burning pain, regurgitation of small volumes into the mouth following snacks and meals, and swallowing problems. Regardless of age, children with GERD should be evaluated by a pediatrician.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, strikes children as well as adults, but triggers vomiting more often in kids.
- Older children with GERD experience classic symptoms of burning pain, regurgitation of small volumes into the mouth following snacks and meals, and swallowing problems.
Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
Recurrent, forceful bouts of vomiting—as many as six episodes per hours for three days or more—characterize cyclic vomiting syndrome 2. Children may experience the episodes as frequently as two to three times per month or as rarely as once per year. MayoClinic.com reports that the disease usually begins between the ages of three and seven. Nausea, retching, and vomiting of small volumes of bile continues even after the stomach is emptied. Sondheimer and Sundaram note that many affected children have a family history of migraines, and migraine medication is sometimes effective. Symptoms also subside with sleep.
- Recurrent, forceful bouts of vomiting—as many as six episodes per hours for three days or more—characterize cyclic vomiting syndrome 2.
- Sondheimer and Sundaram note that many affected children have a family history of migraines, and migraine medication is sometimes effective.
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- "Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics"; W.W. Hay, M.J. Levin, J.M. Sondheimer and R.R. Deterding (Eds.); 2009
- Mayo Clinic: Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
- CDC: Viral Gastroenteritis
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Reflux and GERD
- Kaul A, Kaul KK. Cyclic vomiting syndrome: A functional disorder. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2015;18(4):224-9. doi:10.5223/pghn.2015.18.4.224
- Li BUK. Managing cyclic vomiting syndrome in children: Beyond the guidelines. Eur J Pediatr. 2018;177(10):1435-1442. doi:10.1007/s00431-018-3218-7
- Martinez-Esteve Melnikova A, Schäppi MG, Korff C. Riboflavin in cyclic vomiting syndrome: efficacy in three children. Eur J Pediatr. 2016;175(1):131-5. doi:10.1007/s00431-015-2597-2
- Hikita T, Kodama H, Ogita K, Kaneko S, Nakamoto N, Mimaki M. Cyclic vomiting syndrome in infants and children: A clinical follow-up study. Pediatr Neurol. 2016;57:29-33. doi:10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2016.01.001
- Madani S, Cortes O, Thomas R. Cyproheptadine use in children with functional gastrointestinal disorders. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2016;62(3):409-13. doi:10.1097/MPG.0000000000000964
- Tarbell SE, Li BU. Anxiety measures predict health-related quality of life in children and adolescents with cyclic vomiting syndrome. J Pediatr. 2015;167(3):633-8.e1. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2015.05.032
Heather Gloria began writing professionally in 1990. Her work has appeared in several professional and peer-reviewed publications including "Nutrition in Clinical Practice." Gloria earned both a Bachelor of Science in food science and human nutrition from the University of Illinois. She also maintains the "registered dietitian" credential and her professional interests include therapeutic nutrition, preventive medicine and women's health.