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Vomiting In Children – When To Seek Medical Advice

As parents and carers we will all find ourselves looking after a nauseous child at some point as all otherwise healthy children will vomit every once in a while, whether it is due to car sickness, a tummy bug, (gastroenteritis) or a case of mild food poisoning.

In the majority of cases, vomiting in children is not a sign of something serious and it will pass in a day or so. It is however important to recognise the difference between a mild tummy bug and some of the signs and symptoms that could indicate a more serious illness.

Feeling Helpless

It feels quite terrible to watch your child suffer with nausea and as a parent or carer, you are likely to feel rather helpless as your child struggles through the symptoms, but there are several practical ways to help them feel more comfortable and reassured.

  • Verbal reassurance – just being there and offering some calm, reassuring words to let your child know that you are right there and it will all be ok makes a huge difference. Vomiting can make many children feel alarmed and a little panicked due to the unusual feelings surging around their bodies.
  • A cool cloth – may help to make your child feel more comfortable, particularly as vomiting tends to make them feel hot and sweaty. Try gently wiping the forehead and neck and of course, you can use the cloth to wipe down their face after a bout of sickness.
  • Disposable bags – being sick into a disposable bag can make the whole experience a little less unpleasant as a bag can used in situ, minimising mess then disposed of quickly and easily. These can be particularly helpful for a child who regularly sufferers with motion sickness.
  • Steady breathing – If you notice your child is breathing rapidly and beginning to panic, help them to slow it back down by demonstrating a slow steady breath yourself and you will prevent them from becoming overly distressed and hyperventilating.
  • Ice chips – sucking ice chips can be a great way to give your child a small quantity of fluids to keep them hydrated and keeps them feeling cool at the same time.

Keeping An Eye On Your Child

Aside from motion sickness which is straightforward to detect, the most common cause of vomiting in children is gastroenteritis, an unpleasant tummy infection which generally begins with sickness and progresses to diarrhoea, usually lasting for a couple of days. Most children will feel well enough to carry on as usual whilst ill with this type of infection, still wishing to play and eat as usual.

In this scenario, the bug will generally run its course and all you will need to do is offer your child regular fluids to keep them well hydrated and make sure that both you and your child wash your hands regularly to prevent the infection from spreading to others.

You may find that your child loses their appetite for a short time. If this is the case, it is not a cause for concern, as it is quite normal to go off your food when you feel nauseous. Continue to offer small, regular drinks of water, or an age appropriate hydration drink, avoiding acidic juices that are likely to come straight back up.

Children should not attend their usual childcare facility or school until 48 hours has passed since the last episode of vomiting or diarrhoea. This is to prevent the spread of infections.

When To Contact Your GP

It is important to trust your own instincts and seek medical advice if you are at all worried. Other causes of vomiting could include:

  • A food allergy
  • Pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • A urinary tract infection
  • Appendicitis

Children occasionally become dehydrated when they are suffering with sickness and diarrhoea and are unable to hold down sufficient fluids, causing them to lose excessive amounts of body water and salts. If you are concerned that your child is dehydrated, you should speak to your GP who may recommend an oral rehydration solution.

If your child appears floppy, feverish or less responsive than usual, if they have a severe pain in the stomach, a headache, a stiff neck or a rash, you should always contact your GP or seek medical attention straight away to be on the safe side.

The majority of the time when a child vomits, it is due to a mild tummy bug, which will pass quickly. It is however important to recognise the symptoms that may indicate it is something more serious.

October 1, 2015

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