Toddler Vomit – What’s Normal and What’s Not
If you’re like most parents, when your toddler vomits, you want to know why. Was it something they ate or is something more serious going on? Relax. Chances are your child will vomit a few times before they leave their childhood years behind. When a toddler is sick to their stomach, the underlying cause is usually a virus, especially if they also have diarrhea. With a stomach virus, the two often go together.
A number of viruses can cause diarrhea and vomiting in kids and these viruses are highly contagious. Young children are more susceptible to viruses that cause tummy upset and vomiting than adults are. That’s because their immune system is more immature. Toddlers may even vomit when they have a cold and cough. Sometimes they cough so hard that they vomit.
Vomiting caused by a virus usually goes away on its own after several days. If your child is vomiting due to a viral infection, the most important thing is to do is make sure they aren’t becoming dehydrated. When a child throws up repeatedly or has vomiting and diarrhea, they can lose fluid and electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, which can dangerous.
The younger a child is, the more prone they are to dehydration. If your child is between the ages of one and three and vomits for more than 12 hours and can’t keep liquids down, dehydration is a real concern. On the other hand, if your child is over the age of four and hasn’t stopped vomiting after 24 hours, you should worry about dehydration. Any time a child looks or acts dehydrated, they need to be evaluated. Signs that your child is losing too much fluid include lack of tears when they cry, a dry mouth, lethargy, and less frequent urination.
Although a stomach virus tops the list of most common causes of vomiting in toddlers, other reasons why your child may vomit include:
. Food poisoning
. Bladder or kidney infection
. An intestinal blockage (toddler often has a tender or distended tummy – needs immediate evaluation)
. Appendicitis (toddler may have a tender tummy and fever – needs immediate evaluation)
. Allergic reaction to a food
. Exposure to a drug or poison (if you’re suspicious, your child needs immediate evaluation)
. Motion sickness
. Meningitis (toddler may have headache or stiff neck- needs immediate evaluation)
. Head injury (vomiting after a head injury needs immediate evaluation)
When should you be concerned? If your child has any of the follow signs or symptoms, they need to be evaluated right away:
. Significant amount of blood in their vomit or stool
. Inability to have a bowel movement
. Vomit that is green in color (may indicate bile)
. Tummy pain or tenderness
. Vomiting or diarrhea that doesn’t go away after two days
. Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
. A swollen, distended tummy
. Head pain or a stiff neck
. Signs of obvious distress
The Bottom Line
In most cases, a toddler who vomits doesn’t have a serious illness. Still, always watch for the signs and symptoms above and get your toddler evaluated if they occur. The goal with vomiting and diarrhea is to prevent dehydration until the vomiting and diarrhea go away. If your child vomits more than a few times, it’s a good idea to check with their doctor- just to be safe.