Vomiting (Infant)

Vomiting is common in infants. 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. That’s because there is a greater risk of serious side effects when this type of medicine is used in young children. 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 infants, 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 his or her normal feeding schedule.

  • For formula-fed infants, 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 his or her normal feeding schedule.

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

Follow-up care

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

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 his or her 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 dry mouth

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

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

Always use a digital thermometer to check your child’s temperature. Never use a mercury thermometer.

For infants and toddlers, be sure to use a rectal thermometer correctly. A rectal thermometer may accidentally poke a hole in (perforate) the rectum. It may also pass on germs from the stool. Always follow the product maker’s directions for proper use. If you don’t feel comfortable taking a rectal temperature, use another method. When you talk to your child’s healthcare provider, tell him or her which method you used to take your child’s temperature.

Here are guidelines for fever temperature. Ear temperatures aren’t accurate before 6 months of age. Don’t take an oral temperature until your child is at least 4 years old.

Infant under 3 months old:

  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider how you should take the temperature.

  • Rectal or forehead (temporal artery) temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 99°F (37.2°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child age 3 to 36 months:

  • Rectal, forehead (temporal artery), or ear temperature of 102°F (38.9°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Armpit temperature of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

Child of any age:

  • Repeated temperature of 104°F (40°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider

  • Fever that lasts more than 24 hours in a child under 2 years old. Or a fever that lasts for 3 days in a child 2 years or older.

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© 2000-2020 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.