Vomiting (Infant)

Vomiting is common in babies. There are many possible causes, including viral infection and reflux (GERD). Many common illnesses, such as colds and ear infections, can also cause vomiting.

Vomiting in young children can usually be treated at home. The healthcare provider usually won’t prescribe medicines to prevent vomiting unless symptoms are severe. The main danger from vomiting is dehydration. This means that your child may lose too much water and minerals. To prevent dehydration, you may be told to replace lost body fluids with oral rehydration solution. You can get this at pharmacies and most grocery stores without a prescription.

Home care

To treat vomiting and prevent dehydration in your child, follow the instructions from your child’s healthcare provider. This may include the following:

  • For breastfed babies, you may be told to feed your child for shorter intervals and more often. Do this as often directed by the provider. As vomiting lessens, your child may be able to resume their normal feeding schedule.

  • For formula-fed babies, you may be told to give your child small amounts of rehydration solution every 15 minutes for 2 to 3 hours at first. How much solution to give varies by factors such as your child’s weight. Your provider will give exact instructions. As vomiting lessens, your child may be able to resume their normal feeding schedule.

  • If your baby is already eating solid foods, it may be OK to gradually resume giving solid foods as vomiting lessens. Your child’s provider can tell you more, if needed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider as advised. If your child had testing, you will be told the results when they are ready. In some cases, your child may need more treatment.

When to seek medical advice

Unless your child’s healthcare provider advises otherwise, call the provider right away if your child:

  • Has a fever (see Fever and children, below)

  • Continues to vomit after the first 2 hours on fluids

  • Has vomiting that lasts for more than 24 hours

  • Has diarrhea more than 5 times a day or blood (red or black color) or mucus in their diarrhea

  • Has blood in the vomit or stool

  • Has a swollen belly or signs of belly pain

  • Is vomiting forcefully (projectile vomiting)

  • Has yellow or green-tinged vomit

  • Is not passing stool

  • Has dark urine or no urine for 8 hours, no tears when crying, sunken eyes, or a dry mouth or is sleeping more than usual.

  • Won’t stop fussing or keeps crying and can’t be soothed

  • Other symptoms get worse or your child has new symptoms

Call 911

Call 911 if your child:

  • Has trouble breathing

  • Is very confused

  • Is very drowsy or has trouble waking up

  • Faints

  • Has an unusually fast heart rate

  • Has large amounts of blood in the vomit or stool

  • Has a seizure

  • Has a stiff neck

Fever and children

Use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Don’t use a mercury thermometer. There are different kinds and uses of digital thermometers. They include:

  • Rectal. For children younger than 3 years, a rectal temperature is the most accurate.

  • Forehead (temporal). This works for children age 3 months and older. If a child under 3 months old has signs of illness, this can be used for a first pass. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Ear (tympanic). Ear temperatures are accurate after 6 months of age, but not before.

  • Armpit (axillary). This is the least reliable but may be used for a first pass to check a child of any age with signs of illness. The provider may want to confirm with a rectal temperature.

  • Mouth (oral). Don’t use a thermometer in your child’s mouth until they are at least 4 years old.

Use the rectal thermometer with care. Follow the product maker’s directions for correct use. Insert it gently. Label it and make sure it’s not used in the mouth. It may pass on germs from the stool. If you don’t feel OK using a rectal thermometer, ask the healthcare provider what type to use instead. When you talk with any healthcare provider about your child’s fever, tell them which type you used.

Below are guidelines to know if your young child has a fever. Your child’s healthcare provider may give you different numbers for your child. Follow your provider’s specific instructions.

Fever readings for a baby under 3 months old:

  • First, ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead: 100.4°F (38°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 99°F (37.2°C) or higher

Fever readings for a child age 3 months to 36 months (3 years):

  • Rectal, forehead, or ear: 102°F (38.9°C) or higher

  • Armpit: 101°F (38.3°C) or higher

Call the healthcare provider in these cases:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher in a child of any age

  • Fever of 100.4° (38°C) or higher in baby younger than 3 months

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under age 2

  • Fever that lasts for 3 days in a child age 2 or older

© 2000-2022 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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