Experts Say: Vomiting in Toddlers

What are some remedies for vomiting in toddlers and how can one keep the child from becoming dehydrated?   


Vomiting, also known as puking or throwing up is a symptom rather than an illness. Vomiting can be defined as the forceful throwing up of stomach contents from the mouth. This can be confused with regurgitation, which is a passive expulsion of stomach contents.

Vomiting is mostly self-limiting. If a child is otherwise well and active, and the vomiting episodes are isolated, it is generally not a cause for concern. Medications are not recommended as they are often not necessary and can have side effects. The most important treatment, particularly for a child who has vomited excessively, is to give enough fluids and prevent dehydration.


Common Causes of Vomiting


Stomach flu

In toddlers, a sudden bout of vomiting is most commonly caused by a tummy infection by the virus. If associated with diarrhoea and fever, it is then called gastroenteritis. This infection can last anywhere from two to seven days. If vomiting is infrequent and your child is still able to tolerate most of his milk feeds, no further treatment is required. Small frequent feeds are important to keep your child well-hydrated. There is no need to dilute or stop formula milk. It’s important to give enough fluids.

We recommend giving an “oral rehydration solution (ORS)” for children who vomit a lot. These have the right mix of sugars and electrolytes to replace what the bout of gastro has stripped from their bodies. If your child is unable to keep food or fluids down, this can lead to dehydration. Parents are advised to seek a doctor’s opinion if their child is unable to retain any fluids or develop signs of dehydration such as reduced urination, sunken eyes, dry mouth, irritability or lethargy. Intravenous fluids by the vein are sometimes required. Antibiotics are generally not needed.


Food poisoning

Food poisoning occurs due to bacterial contamination of food, releasing toxins in the intestine and causes profuse vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal cramping. It usually improves spontaneously within 24 hours.


Gastric reflux

Most babies will have a little backward flow of stomach fluids, resulting in ‘regurgitation’ from the stomach to the mouth after feeding. This will not affect nutrition and growth. Most will outgrow it after infancy. Toddlers with persistent gastric reflux disease can have problems with growth. This appears as frequent regurgitation and vomiting after feeding, with arching of the back. Medical attention is required for appropriate diagnosis and management.


Vomiting after bouts of coughing

After a coughing spell, there can be occasional vomiting of ‘phlegm’ (mucus). This is generally self-limiting and anti-vomiting medications are unnecessary. Treatment is directed at addressing the cause of coughs, such as pneumonia or bronchitis.


Motion sickness

About 50 per cent of kids feel sick to their stomachs while moving in cars or airplanes and may require attention.


Question answered by:

Dr Varsha Shah

Senior Consultant

Department of Neonatal and Developmental Medicine

Singapore General Hospital


Thanks for sharing!