We are definitely in the throes of "sick season" in our office and with that comes a lot of kids with vomiting. I remember the first time that one of my own children vomited. We were in Target, he was about two and he had said he "was sick". Now, seeing that he was not very specific and did not elaborate, I just went on shopping. Several minutes later, as he sat in the cart (with seat belt fastened), he just looked at me wide eyed and suddenly vomited. This is the moment as a parent that you understand the difference between babies that "spit up", and true, projectile vomiting! Now what do you do once your child has vomited (besides rush out of Target as fast as you can)?
Once a child has vomited it is important not to give them anything else to eat or drink, for at least 30 to 45 minutes. That means even if they are "begging" for a drink, as you will probably see it come right back at you if you do.
After waiting, you want to begin re-hydrating with clear liquids. Not a good idea to pull out the milk or food yet. In an infant you can use Pedialyte, which is an oral electrolyte solution, and instead of breast milk or formula you can try feeding your infant about an ounce of Pedialyte every 10 to 15 minutes and see if they can keep Pedialyte down.
In toddlers and older children I use Gatorade, as it is not quite as "salty" and kids seem to take it better. Again, frequent small sips of Gatorade while you wait to see if the vomiting is persistent. Don't go too quickly on giving them larger volumes. The key is small amounts, frequently, which are easier to handle. As your child keeps down the Pedialyte or Gatorade you can increase the volume that they are taking and decrease the frequency.
The main thing you are trying to do with a child of any age is to keep them from getting dehydrated and their vomiting is typically due to a viral illness affecting their GI tract.
Because it is typically a virus that is the culprit for nasty vomiting, it just takes time to get through the illness. There is no "miracle" cure, and watching your child vomit, or cleaning up the vomit that invariably is usually not in the toilet, is one of the worst parenting jobs.
That being said, there are very few children who will not experience vomiting at least once or twice during their childhood, so you need to keep "clear liquids" on hand in the pantry. Having powdered Gatorade around is a lifesaver at 2 a.m when your four-year-old wakes up and throws up.
If you are giving the clear liquids, and your child tolerates larger volumes, but then vomits again later on, you just back up and start all over with smaller amounts more frequently. It is somewhat like a "balancing act" to give enough that they are hydrated, but at the same time to not give too much at one time that they vomit again. Slow and steady is the mantra.
You should always be looking for your child to have tears, a wet and moist mouth (put your finger in there, it should come out with some saliva on it), and urine. It is often hard to tell if a child in diapers has had a wet diaper as they will not be "soaking" the diaper and smaller amounts of urine are "wicked" with the new super absorbent diapers.
Children will also be pitiful after vomiting and may seem "lethargic" to you, but if they are an infant and can smile and make good eye contact or they are an older child who can tell you they feel terribly and don't want to drink Gatorade or play with their blocks they are probably not dehydrated. If in doubt, give your doctor a call to discuss what is going on.
After using Pedialyte and Gatorade, and your child has not vomited for six to eight hours you can try adding some formula or breast milk, or other liquids such as chicken soup or a Popsicle. I still would not start solid food until the child has kept down other liquids. We parents all worry if our children don't "eat" but the fluids are the important part, and as we all know, a day without out chicken nuggets or peanut butter will be okay. Keep up the fluids!!
If your child continues to vomit despite your best efforts with "slow and steady" fluids you need to call the doctor. We have plenty of patients that we see everyday to make sure they are hydrated, and to even watch them while they take fluids in our office. Occasionally, when all else fails we will have to hospitalize a child for IV hydration.
Oh yes, remember to wash your hands frequently as these nasty viruses are contagious and parents will often find themselves getting sick after their children.
That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.