Last Updated on October 31, 2018
Children encounter stomach troubles fairly often. Their digestive system is still delicate and so is their immunity. While, thankfully, most tummy upsets usually do resolve on their own, it can still be worrying to see your child feeling under the weather. The best course of action to take is to feed him the right fluids and foods that calm the tummy and quickly bring relief.
Babies have a developing and extremely sensitive digestive system. Plus, if your child is mobile and has started crawling and putting things in his mouth, be prepared for problems in his delicate tummy! Feeding babies during tummy troubles can be very difficult, as the illness makes them cranky and lowers their appetite. However, not getting adequate nutrition will only delay the process of healing.
KEY TAKEAWAY: In this video, the expert talks about identifying the signs of diarrhoea. If your baby has diarrhoea, take the following steps –
- Do NOT stop giving fluids to your baby.
- In case you are breastfeeding, do not stop nursing.
- Occasionally, also give him electrolytes
- Ask your paediatrician regarding any dietary supplement that needs to be given.
- Most importantly, understand the cause of diarrhoea.
- Best Foods For Babies With an Upset Stomach
- Foods You MUST Avoid if Your Baby’s Stomach is Upset
- When to Contact a Doctor
- What to Feed a Child With a Stomach Bug
- Interview Transcript
- Is the BRAT Diet Safe for Children?
- Vomiting in children and babies
- What to do
- When to get medical advice
- Looking after your child at home
- Causes of vomiting in children
- Causes of vomiting in babies
- Why Is My Baby Throwing Up When They Don’t Have a Fever?
- “Mom, My Tummy Hurts:” Children and Stomachaches
Best Foods For Babies With an Upset Stomach
1. Usual Diet at Half The Amount
If your baby’s stomach is upset, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he cannot eat regular foods. Babies and toddlers usually consume a few fruits, vegetables and starches, and these don’t affect the stomach. Paediatricians recommend that unless a new food in your child’s diet is what has caused the tummy upset, you can continue feeding him the same. You only have to reduce the quantity to about half and try feeding him more often. He’ll find it easier to keep the food down, and it will not exert pressure on his sensitive tummy.
2. BRAT Diet
The BRAT diet includes bananas, rice, applesauce and unbuttered toast, which are recommended foods for toddlers with upset stomachs. You can feed it to your toddler if he refuses to eat his regular food. The BRAT diet can also include yoghurt. If your child doesn’t like yoghurt, consider adding probiotics to his food after consulting his doctor. They can promote a healthier digestive system.
Note: The BRAT diet may not be complete in itself to cover all your child’s nutritional needs. You do not need to limit his diet to these foods unless advised by the doctor.
3. Low-Fibre Food
Food that’s high in fibre softens stool and makes it easier to pass. However, during diarrhoea, low-fibre foods are recommended as stool may become firmer. Crackers and white rice are a couple of foods you can feed 12-month-old babies with upset stomachs. You can also try some of these low-fibre foods; they are safe options for feeding babies with diarrhoea:
- White bread
- Cottage cheese
- Cooked vegetables like carrots
- Lean meats such as chicken
An upset stomach takes on a worrisome note when dehydration sets in. In order to keep your child hydrated, continue feeding him water (if he’s older than 6 months) and, if you’re nursing, breast milk. If diarrhoea is moderate to severe, contact his doctor who can prescribe oral re hydration salts or an electrolyte solution.
Note: Always consult a doctor before attempting to give your toddler any anti-diarrhoeal medication as they can be dangerous for kids!
Foods You MUST Avoid if Your Baby’s Stomach is Upset
There are certain foods that may worsen upset tummies, so it is important to keep them away from your child. These include:
1. Sugary drinks like soft drinks and undiluted fruit juices
2. Gas-causing veggies like corn, broccoli and cauliflower, and other green leafy items
3. Processed foods
4. Dairy other than yoghurt and breast milk, unless your child doesn’t have a reaction
When to Contact a Doctor
Though most cases of upset tummies go away on their own, we should know when to call a doctor. Please watch out for these signs and consult the doctor immediately if you see them:
- Frequent vomiting
- A fever of over 102 degrees Fahrenheit
- Infrequent urination
- Dark yellow urine
- Dry and sticky mouth
- Little or no tears when crying
Seeing your child come down with a bad stomach can be difficult. Yet, it’s important to remember to stay calm, feed your toddler the right foods, and keep an eye out for worsening symptoms. Almost all babies and toddlers suffer from upset tummies at times, that typically resolve with just a bit of help.
What to Feed a Child With a Stomach Bug
- Hydrate. When vomiting and diarrhea hit, the most important thing to remember is to keep your child hydrated. When my poor baby is hurling over the toilet, I always have a fresh, cold glass of water waiting for him or her during every vomiting episode. Other tolerable drinks include ginger ale and tart lemon sodas. The goal is for your child to take in about 1 to 2 fluid ounces every half hour or so.
- And hydrate. Sometimes, your child may need an over-the-counter oral electrolyte solution like Pedialyte in order to replenish electrolytes lost through vomiting and diarrhea. (Always speak with your pediatrician, though, before giving one to your little one.) These oral electrolyte solutions are easiest to tolerate when served cold. Some brands also come as frozen pops. Sports drinks, juice and soda are not the same because they don’t contain the same specially formulated ratio of electrolytes.
- Let the tummy rest. For the first 24 hours your child is actively vomiting, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends to focus on hydration and offer clear fluids such as water, ice pops and gelatin. Liquids help prevent dehydration, and are less likely than solid foods to stimulate further vomiting.
- Monitor. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of dehydration such as a moist mouth, lips or tongue. Also, be aware of how often they are urinating or wetting diapers. If you’re concerned your child may be dehydrated, call your pediatrician immediately or visit your local emergency room.
- Encourage rest and relaxation. Children usually exhibit a lack of energy when they are sick with a stomach bug. Keep them home from school and let them spend the day resting on the sofa with some tender loving care.
- Clean and Disinfect. You don’t want the rest of the family to pick up the stomach bug! Clean vomit and diarrhea immediately with a solution of 5 to 25 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water. In addition, clean and disinfect any areas your child has touched including beds, toys and bathrooms. Immediately wash towels, bed sheets, blankets, stuffed animals and clothes. Make sure the bathroom is stocked with soap and a clean towel, and demand that hands be washed regularly.
Announcer: The Health Minute, produced by University of Utah Health.
Interviewer: Your child is sick and vomiting. The good news is it usually stops in about 6 to 24 hours. But until then, how can you keep them hydrated, and should you make them eat? Pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner, what advice do have for parents?
Dr. Gellner: When your child has a stomach virus, vomiting and diarrhea can be pretty intense for the first day or so. It’s really important to keep kids hydrated during this time. Many parents get concerned because their kids don’t want to eat. Not eating is a good thing. If you force them to, they could lose it all over again. Don’t give them solid foods for about eight hours once they’ve started vomiting. Clear liquids only. Give babies Pedialyte and older kids should drink sports drinks and just small amounts at a time. Once they can hold food down, give them things like yogurt, bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast. Definitely hold off on the burgers and pizza for a few days.
Announcer: To find out more about this and other health and wellness topics, visit thescoperadio.com.
Is the BRAT Diet Safe for Children?
The BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast)was once a staple of most pediatricians’ recommendations for children with an upset stomach. The idea was that it gave the gut a chance to rest and reduced the amount of stool produced. Experts now say the BRAT diet may not be the best option for children who are ill.
Because BRAT diet foods are low in fiber, protein, and fat, the diet lacks enough nutrition to help a child’s gastrointestinal tract recover. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that kids resume eating a normal, well-balanced diet appropriate for their age within 24 hours of getting sick. That diet should include a mix of fruits, vegetables, meat, yogurt, and complex carbohydrates.
Both children and adults who are ill need to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Water is good, but adding broth, a sports drink, or a rehydration solution can help replace lost electrolytes.
Call your health care provider if you or your child experiences:
- Diarrhea that lasts for more than three days
- A temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
- Reduced urine
- No tears or sunken cheeks
What causes vomiting and diarrhea?
Vomiting (throwing up) and diarrhea (frequent, watery bowel movements) can be caused by viruses, bacteria and parasites. Foods that are hard to digest (such as too many sweets) and undercooked (still partially raw) meat or fish can also cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Can vomiting and diarrhea be dangerous for children?
Vomiting and diarrhea can be harmful because they can cause dehydration. Dehydration occurs when you lose too much fluid. Young children can become dehydrated quickly, but dehydration can occur at any age.
Signs of dehydration are listed in the box below.
How can I prevent dehydration?
If your baby or child has had several bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, he or she will need to replace lost fluids and electrolytes.
If you are breastfeeding, continue to give your baby breastmilk. Breastmilk has fluids and electrolytes needed to prevent dehydration. Your doctor may also want you to give your baby an oral rehydration solution (ORS).
If you feed your baby formula, try switching to one that is lactose free while your baby is sick. Lactose can make diarrhea worse. Your doctor may also suggest switching from formula to an ORS for 12 to 24 hours, and then switching back.
For toddlers and young children, use an ORS, which contains the right mix of salt, sugar, potassium and other nutrients to help replace lost body fluids. Children older than 1 year may also have clear soups, clear sodas or juice mixed with water to help prevent dehydration. You should avoid giving your child plain water and dark sodas. Water alone does not contain enough salt and nutrients to help with dehydration. Dark sodas are typically very high in sugar and can irritate your child’s stomach.
Signs of dehydration
- Little or lack of urine, or urine that is darker than usual
- Urinating less frequently than usual (fewer than 6 wet diapers a day for infants and 8 hours or more without urinating for children)
- Thirst (babies may show thirst by crying, being irritable and eager to drink when something is offered)
- Not eating as well as usual
- Weight loss
- Dry mouth
- No tears when crying
- In babies who are younger than 18 months old, sunken soft spots on the top of their heads
- Skin that isn’t as springy or elastic as usual
What is an ORS?
An oral rehydration solution, or ORS, is a great way to replace fluids and nutrients lost through vomiting and diarrhea. An ORS is safe for babies and older children. An ORS can come in several forms, including a powder that you mix with water, a liquid that is already mixed and as frozen popsicles.
Brands of ORS include Pedialyte, Ricelyte, Rehydralyte and the World Health Organization’s Oral Rehydration Solution (WHO-ORS). You can purchase these at most grocery stores and drugstores. If you don’t have access to store-bought ORS, you can mix 8 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt in a quart (4 cups) of water. This mixture lacks potassium but is otherwise a good ORS. You can supply some potassium by adding a cup of orange juice to your homemade ORS or feeding your child some banana.
If your child is vomiting, try giving him or her small amounts of an ORS often, such as 1 teaspoonful every minute. When your child is able to keep the drink down, slowly increase how much you give.
If your child keeps vomiting, wait 30 to 60 minutes after the last time he or she vomited, and then give him or her a few sips of an ORS. Small amounts every few minutes may stay down better than a large amount all at once.
When your child stops vomiting, you may increase how much of the ORS you give each time and add clear broths or clear sodas. Remember, small amounts are less likely to upset your child’s stomach.
If your child has diarrhea and isn’t vomiting, give him or her an ORS and other liquids. Your doctor may ask you to keep track of how much your child drinks. You can use a dropper, a spoon or a measuring cup to help you keep track.
Should I feed my child when he or she has diarrhea?
Yes. Older children should begin eating within 12 to 24 hours after starting to take an ORS. Avoid foods with a lot of sugar and fat, such as ice cream, gelatin, pudding and fried foods. These may irritate your child’s stomach and digestive tract. It’s best to avoid dairy products for 3 to 7 days.
Your doctor may recommend that you give your child bland foods for the first 24 hours. Bland foods include bananas, rice, applesauce, toast, saltine crackers and unsweetened cereals. If your child does well with these foods, you can add other foods over the next 48 hours.
Most children can return to their usual diet about 3 days after the diarrhea stops. If your child has been vomiting, wait 6 hours after the last time he or she vomited before offering food. Try offering small amounts of bland foods. Do not force your child to eat. Your child may not feel very hungry for a few days after vomiting.
Should I give my child medicine to stop diarrhea?
Probably not. Diarrhea usually doesn’t last long. If it’s caused by an infection, diarrhea is a way for the body to get rid of the infection. Giving medicines that stop diarrhea may actually interfere with the body’s efforts to heal. Antibiotics are usually not necessary either. Talk to your family doctor if you think your child needs medicine.
Will my child need to go to the hospital?
Probably not, unless dehydration becomes severe. In this case, your child may need to be given fluids intravenously (through an IV) to replace fluids lost through vomiting or diarrhea. Call your doctor if you notice any of the signs in the box below.
Call your doctor if your child is vomiting or has diarrhea and:
- Is younger than 6 months old.
- Is older than 6 months old and has a fever higher than 101.4°F.
- Has signs of dehydration (see box above).
- Has been vomiting longer than 8 hours or is vomiting with great force.
- Has blood in his or her stools.
- Has blood in his or her vomit.
- Has not urinated in 8 hours.
- Might have swallowed something that could be poisonous.
- Has a stiff neck.
- Is listless or unusually sleepy.
- Has had abdominal pain for more than 2 hours.
Can I help prevent vomiting and diarrhea in my children?
Vomiting and diarrhea may be caused by foods that are hard for your child to digest (such as sugar or by bacteria in undercooked meat). Make sure your child eats a healthy diet.
Most infections that cause diarrhea are caused by a virus found in feces. Help prevent infection by disposing of dirty diapers properly and by washing your hands after changing a diaper or going to the bathroom. Make sure your child washes his or her hands frequently, especially after going to the bathroom.
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff.
American Academy of Family Physicians
Dealing with your child’s upset stomach can sometimes be a frustrating experience. How do you know if it’s a case of too much candy, the flu or something more serious?
Dr. Marvin Gans, pediatrician for The Hospital for Sick Children, visited with Balance Television host Dr. Marla Shapiro to talk about some common stomach ailments, and what to do about them.
Frequently, viral gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach and intestines) starts with vomiting, Gans said. That’s where parents should start.
When a child is vomiting, he said, the most important thing is to give your child sips of clear fluids. “You must only limit the child to one ounce and wait an hour, than another ounce,” Gans explained. Using a tablespoon or teaspoon is an effective way of doing this.
And, he said people should be using Pedialyte (or Gastrolyte), not water or homemade sugar solutions. Why you ask? The answer is that these drinks have electrolytes, Gans said.
“When you vomit, you lose sodium and potassium and some of the other electrolytes,” he said. “That’s not replaced if you just give water.”
The secret to dehydration is knowing what your child is like. If they’re older, you can weigh them, Gans said, just like doctors and hospitals do. “We weight them and make sure they’re not losing weight.”
If you’re home with an infant and you can’t weigh them, he said, it’s important to ensure that the mucous membrane is moist, the mouth and tongue are moist, that when they cry there are tears in their eyes and that they urinate often.
It’s important to try and prevent dehydration in the first place by watching for those telltale signs.
Gans recommends stopping dairy consumption by your child as soon as they’re stomach gets upset, and not bringing it back until the diarrhea resolves. So no milk, except breast milk, he said.
Another drink children with diarrhea should not be given is apple juice because it has a high sugar load that will perpetuate the diarrhea.
Once they can keep food down, baby foods such as peas and peaches are fine for little babies. If they’re older, Gans starts them off with foods such as toast, crackers, soup, rice and pasta.
The definition of constipation, Gans explained is hard stools. Kids must have stools that are soft and pain-free, he said. It’s not about frequency.
You’ll need to get things that are high if roughage, fibre and bran into your child. But getting your child to eat bran can be tough. Gans suggests making bran muffins with your kids so they’re part of the solution. He also advises putting chocolate chips in the muffins because kids will be more likely to eat them.
For an older child who won’t eat prunes, prune juice or bran, try popcorn. It’s a good source of roughage and fibre.
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Vomiting in children and babies
It’s normal for babies and children to vomit occasionally. In most cases, it will last no longer than one to two days and isn’t a sign of anything serious.
The most common cause of vomiting in children and babies is gastroenteritis. This is an infection of the gut usually caused by a virus or bacteria, which also causes diarrhoea. The symptoms can be unpleasant but your child will usually start to feel better after a few days.
However, persistent vomiting can sometimes cause your child to become severely dehydrated and occasionally it can be a sign of something more serious, such as meningitis.
This page outlines what to do if your child keeps vomiting and describes some of the common causes of vomiting in children and babies.
If your child has a high temperature, you can also read a separate page about fever in children.
What to do
If your child vomits, you should keep a close eye on them. Trust your instincts and contact your GP immediately if you’re worried.
If the cause is just a tummy bug, your child should still be feeling well enough to eat, play and be their usual self. In this case, keep feeding them as normal and offer them regular drinks (see below).
But if they don’t seem themself – for example, if they’re floppy, irritable or less responsive – they may be seriously ill, so you should get medical help immediately.
When to get medical advice
You should contact your GP if:
- your child is repeatedly vomiting and is unable to hold down fluids
- you think they’re dehydrated – symptoms of dehydration can include a dry mouth, crying without producing tears, urinating less or not wetting many nappies, and drowsiness
- their vomit is green or contains blood
- they have been vomiting for more than a day or two
Go to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department if your child is vomiting and develops sudden and severe tummy pain, or they’re floppy, irritable or less responsive
Call 999 for an ambulance or go to your nearest A&E department immediately if they’re vomiting and have a headache, stiff neck and a rash.
Looking after your child at home
In most cases, you can treat your child safely at home. The most important thing you can do is make sure they keep drinking fluids to prevent dehydration.
If your baby is vomiting, carry on breastfeeding or giving them milk feeds. If they seem dehydrated, they will need extra fluids. Ask your GP or pharmacist whether you should give your baby oral rehydration solution.
Oral rehydration solution is a special powder that you make into a drink. It contains sugar and salts to help replace the water and salts lost through vomiting and diarrhoea.
Children who are vomiting should keep taking small sips of clear fluid, such as water or clear broth. Fruit juice and fizzy drinks should be avoided until they’re feeling better. If they’re not dehydrated and haven’t lost their appetite, it’s fine for your child to eat solid foods as normal.
Again, speak to your GP or pharmacist if you’re concerned about dehydration. They may recommend an oral rehydration solution for your child. Contact your GP or practice nurse if your child is unable to hold down oral rehydration solution.
If your child has diarrhoea and is vomiting, they shouldn’t go to school or any other childcare facility until 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea or vomiting.
Read more about treating gastroenteritis in children.
Causes of vomiting in children
There are a number of possible causes of vomiting in children, which are described below.
Gastroenteritis is an infection of the gut. It’s a common cause of vomiting in children and usually lasts a few days.
Food allergies can cause vomiting in children, as well as other symptoms, such as a raised, red, itchy skin rash (urticaria) and swelling of the face, around the eyes, lips, tongue or the roof of the mouth.
Watch out for foods that may bring on vomiting and see your GP for a diagnosis if you think your child may have a food allergy.
Vomiting can sometimes be a sign of an infection other than gastroenteritis, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), middle ear infections, pneumonia or meningitis.
Contact your child’s GP if they’re vomiting and experiencing additional symptoms of an infection, such as a high temperature (fever) and irritability.
Appendicitis is a painful swelling of the appendix, a finger-like pouch connected to the large intestine. It causes severe tummy pain that gets worse over time.
If your child has tummy pain that’s gradually getting worse, contact your GP, or if they aren’t open call NHS 24’s 111 service immediately. You should call 999 for an ambulance if they have pain that gets worse quickly and spreads across their tummy.
In most cases of appendicitis, the appendix will need to be surgically removed as soon as possible.
Accidentally swallowing something poisonous can cause your child to vomit. If you think this is the case, contact your GP immediately or take your child to your nearest accident and emergency (A&E) department.
Causes of vomiting in babies
- a food allergy or milk intolerance
- gastro-oesophageal reflux – where stomach contents escape back up the gullet
- too big a hole in the bottle teat, which causes your baby to swallow too much milk
- accidentally swallowing something poisonous
- congenital pyloric stenosis – a condition present at birth where the passage from the stomach to the bowel has narrowed, so food is unable to pass through easily; this causes projectile vomiting
- a strangulated hernia – your baby will vomit frequently and cry as if they are in a lot of pain; this should be treated as a medical emergency
- intussusception (where the bowel telescopes in on itself) – as well as vomiting, your baby may look pale, floppy and have symptoms of dehydration
Why Is My Baby Throwing Up When They Don’t Have a Fever?
Babies have to learn everything from scratch, including how to feed and keep the milk down. Along with spit-up, your baby may vomit occasionally after being fed. This is most common in the first month of life.
It happens because your baby’s tummy is still getting used to digesting food. They also have to learn to not gulp milk down too fast or overfeed.
Post-feeding vomiting typically stops after the first month. Give your baby more frequent, smaller feeds to help stop the vomit.
But let your pediatrician know if your baby vomits often or has very forceful vomits. In some cases, it might be a sign of something other than feeding difficulty.
Also known as the tummy bug or “stomach flu,” gastroenteritis is a common cause of vomiting in babies and children. Your baby may have cycles of vomiting that come and go for about 24 hours.
Other symptoms in babies may last for 4 days or longer:
- watery, runny poop or mild diarrhea
- irritability or crying
- poor appetite
- stomach cramps and pain
The tummy bug can also cause a fever, but this is actually less common in babies.
Gastroenteritis usually looks a lot worse than it is (thank goodness!). It’s typically caused by a virus that goes away by itself in about a week.
In babies, severe gastroenteritis can lead to dehydration. Call your pediatrician immediately if your baby has any signs of dehydration:
- dry skin, mouth, or eyes
- unusual sleepiness
- no wet diapers for 8 to 12 hours
- weak cry
- crying without tears
In some ways, babies really are like tiny adults. Just like adults of any age can have acid reflux or GERD, some babies have infant reflux. This can lead to baby vomiting in the first weeks or months of your baby’s life.
Vomiting from acid reflux happens when the muscles at the top of the stomach are too relaxed. This triggers baby vomiting shortly after feeding.
In most cases, the stomach muscles strengthen, and your baby’s vomiting goes away on its own. Meanwhile, you can help slow down the vomiting by:
- avoiding overfeeding
- giving smaller, more frequent feeds
- burping your baby often
- propping your baby up in an upright position for about 30 minutes after feeding
You can also thicken milk or formula with more formula or a bit of baby cereal. Caveat: Check with your pediatrician before you try this. It might not be suitable for all babies.
Cold and flu
Babies catch colds and flus easily because they have shiny new immune systems that are still developing. It doesn’t help if they’re in day care with other sniffling kiddos, or they’re around adults that can’t resist kissing their little faces. Your baby may have up to seven colds in their first year alone.
Cold and flu can cause different symptoms in babies. Along with a runny nose, your baby may also have vomiting without a fever.
Too much mucus in the nose (congestion) can lead to a nasal drip in the throat. This can trigger bouts of forceful coughing that sometimes cause vomiting in babies and children.
As in adults, colds and flu in babies are viral and go away after about a week. In some cases, sinus congestion may turn into an infection. Your baby will need antibiotics to treat any bacterial — not viral — infection.
Ear infections are another common illness in babies and children. This is because their ear tubes are horizontal rather than more vertical like in adults.
If your little one has an ear infection, they might have nausea and vomiting without a fever. This happens because an ear infection can cause dizziness and loss of balance. Other symptoms of ear infections in babies include:
- pain in one or both ears
- tugging or scratching at or near the ears
- muffled hearing
Most ear infections in babies and children go away without treatment. However, it’s important to see a pediatrician in case your baby needs antibiotics to clear up the infection. In rare cases, a serious ear infection can damage a baby’s tender ears.
Before you swaddle your baby or put them in that adorable fluffy bunny suit, check the temperature outside and in your home.
While it’s true that the womb was warm and cozy, babies can overheat quickly in hot weather or in a very warm house or car. This is because their tiny bodies are less able to sweat out heat. Overheating might cause vomiting and dehydration.
Overheating can lead to heat exhaustion or in much more serious cases, heatstroke. Look for other symptoms like:
- pale, clammy skin
- irritability and crying
- sleepiness or floppiness
Immediately remove clothing and keep your baby out of the sun and away from heat. Try to breastfeed (or give your baby water if they’re 6 months or older). Get urgent medical attention if your baby doesn’t seem their usual self.
Babies below the age of 2 years don’t commonly get motion or car sickness, but some babies may get sick after a car ride or being twirled around — especially if they’ve just eaten.
Motion sickness can make your baby dizzy and nauseous, leading to vomiting. It might be more likely to happen if your baby already has an upset tummy from bloating, gas, or constipation.
Strong smells and windy or bumpy roads can also make your baby dizzy. Nausea triggers more saliva, so you might notice more dribble before your baby vomits.
You can help prevent motion sickness by traveling when your baby is ready to sleep. (Great trick if your baby loves to sleep in the car!) A sleeping baby is less likely to feel queasy.
Keep their head well supported in the car seat so it doesn’t move around too much. Also, avoid going for a drive right after giving your baby a full feed — you want your baby to digest the milk, not wear it.
A rare kind of milk intolerance is called galactosemia. It happens when babies are born without a certain enzyme needed to break down sugars in milk. Some babies with this condition are even sensitive to breast milk.
It can cause nausea and vomiting after drinking milk or any kind of dairy products. Galactosemia can also cause a skin rash or itching in both babies and adults.
If your baby is formula fed, check the ingredients for any dairy, including milk proteins.
Most newborns are screened at birth for this rare condition and other illnesses. This is usually done with a heel prick blood test or a urine test.
In the rare event that your baby has this, you’ll know it very early on. Make sure your baby completely avoids milk to help stop vomiting and other symptoms.
Pyloric stenosis is a rare condition that happens when the opening between the stomach and intestines is blocked or too narrow. It can lead to forceful vomiting after feeding.
If your baby has pyloric stenosis, they may be hungry all the time. Other symptoms include:
- weight loss
- wave-like stomach contractions
- fewer bowel movements
- fewer wet diapers
This rare condition can be treated with surgery. Tell your pediatrician immediately if your baby has any of the symptoms of pyloric stenosis.
Intussusception is a rare intestinal condition. It affects 1 in every 1,200 babies and most commonly happens at the age of 3 months or older. Intussusception can cause vomiting without a fever.
This condition happens when the intestines are damaged by a virus or other health conditions. The damaged intestine slips — “telescopes” — into another part of the intestine.
Along with vomiting, a baby may have severe stomach cramps that last for about 15 minutes. The pain can cause some babies to curl their knees up to their chest.
Other symptoms of this intestinal condition include:
- fatigue and tiredness
- blood or mucus in bowel movements
If your baby has intussusception, treatment can push the intestine back into place. This gets rid of vomiting, pain, and other symptoms. Treatment includes using air in the intestines to gently move the intestines. If that doesn’t work, keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery heals this condition.
“Mom, My Tummy Hurts:” Children and Stomachaches
Young children aren’t always able to tell you what’s wrong when they don’t feel well. So, as a parent, you’ve got to do some investigative work to figure out what’s really going on. If your child complains of an upset stomach, it can mean any number of things. Ask your child lots of questions and look for patterns in her symptoms to get to the bottom of her upset stomach.
Upset Stomach: What Stomachaches Can Mean in Children
When a child complains of a stomachache, it’s often difficult for parents to figure out the source of this common but vague digestive complaint.
Stomachaches are “a challenging problem to evaluate, because kids are not good at locating their pain,” notes Marsha H. Kay, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist and head of pediatric endoscopy at the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital in Ohio. “The younger the child is, the less specific their symptoms are and the less they are able to of pain.”
To pinpoint the cause of a child’s upset stomach, parents should focus on any changes in the child’s behavior.
“The things parents should pay attention to are interfering with play and activities,” advises Dr. Kay. Also, if an upset stomach is waking them up from sleep or is associated with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, blood in the stool, these are signs that would require an evaluation by the pediatrician.
Kay also points out that sometimes kids will use a stomachache to try to get out of school. She suggests taking note of any patterns — does your child only complain of stomachaches on school mornings? Does the upset stomach magically disappear if a fun activity is planned? If so, ask your child if someone or something in particular is troubling her at school.
Upset Stomach: Play the Detective
There are many things that can lead to stomachaches in children. These are some frequent causes to consider:
- Overeating or eating fatty, sugary, or spicy foods
- Lactose intolerance
- Diarrhea or constipation
- An illness or infection (including intestinal, respiratory, and ear infections)
- Functional bowel problems
- Emotional stress
It may take a bit of trial and error on your part to figure out if your child’s upset stomach can be easily remedied.
“Sometimes kids have stomachaches because they’re hungry, and they can’t articulate that the pain is not really pain. Sometimes it’s because they need to use the bathroom — they can’t recognize these sensations,” says Kay. This is especially common in young children, so take your child on a trip to the bathroom or consider when your child last ate — offer a snack in case she’s just hungry.
Upset Stomach: Helping Your Child Feel Better
Whatever the cause of the stomachache, most parents just want their children to feel better. Here are some tips to help ease an upset stomach:
- Let her rest quietly while reading books or watching a movie.
- Encourage her to drink water or clear fluids.
- Withhold solid foods for a couple of hours, especially if she is throwing up.
- After a few hours, try to get her to eat a little bit of mild food that won’t upset her stomach, like crackers, dry toast, applesauce, or plain rice.
- Place a warm cloth or a heating pad on her belly for about 20 minutes.
- Don’t give your child an over-the-counter pain reliever that could aggravate her stomachache or mask important symptoms.
If your child’s upset stomach doesn’t get better or is accompanied by fever, intense vomiting, diarrhea, or bloody stool, call your pediatrician. Fortunately though, most stomachaches can be remedied with a little quiet time and a lot of love.
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Stomachaches are incredibly common in children. Most of the time they are nothing serious at all. Most are just from a mild stomach bug, or some constipation, or hunger — or are a child’s way of getting out of something they don’t want to do. But a stomach pain can sometimes be a sign of a more serious problem.
A stomachache worries doctors when…
- The pain is severe. By severe, I mean that the child cannot be distracted from it and is crying or otherwise showing that they are extremely uncomfortable. Any severe pain warrants a trip to the doctor, whether it’s unrelenting or it comes and goes.
- There is blood in the stool. Most of the time, we see blood in the stool with constipation, which is usually not serious and can be easily treated. But a bad stomachache with blood in the stool can be a sign of a serious infection, inflammatory bowel disease, or another intestinal problem. So, any time your child has a stomachache and blood in the stool, give your doctor a call to be on the safe side.
- The child vomits blood. As with blood in the stool, this isn’t always a sign of something serious. Children who have been vomiting a lot can sometimes vomit some blood, and children who have nosebleeds, or bleeding from a lost tooth or some other problem of the mouth, may vomit that blood back up. But as with blood in the stool, any stomach pain with vomiting blood requires a call to the doctor.
- There is green vomit. Green vomit can be a sign of a blockage in the intestine. Sometimes people vomit some yellow-green material when they have vomited up everything else, but stomach pain and green vomit should never be ignored.
- The child has hives, looks pale, complains of dizziness, or has swelling of the face. Anaphylaxis, the most serious kind of allergic reaction, can cause stomach pain, often with vomiting. For this one, you should call 911. If your child has a known allergy and you have epinephrine at home, give it while you wait for the ambulance to arrive.
- The stomach pain is in the right lower side of the belly. That’s where the appendix is. Early on, the stomachache of appendicitis is usually around the belly button, but then it moves to what we doctors call “the right lower quadrant.” Constipation can cause pain there, and girls who get periods can have pain there when they ovulate, but we don’t like to miss appendicitis. So, any pain in that part of the belly should get checked out.
- The child has a fever and a bad cough. Pneumonia can sometimes cause a stomachache. Now, many viruses can cause a stomachache along with a cough, but if the cough is particularly bad, or the stomachache is getting worse, or the child seems to be breathing quickly or otherwise differently, call the doctor.
- The child says it hurts to urinate. Sometimes a stomachache can be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
- The child has a high fever or seems much sleepier than usual. Stomachaches can be seen in serious infections — and being very sleepy when you are in pain can be a sign not just of infection but of low blood pressure or blood loss. High fevers and extra sleepiness should always be checked out, but especially if there is a stomachache too.
- The child is losing weight. It’s not uncommon for a child to lose a little weight from vomiting or diarrhea. Usually they gain it back once they feel better. But if a child who gets stomachaches is steadily losing weight — for example, their clothes no longer fit — they should be thoroughly checked out by the doctor.
What to do if none of the above is true
This doesn’t mean that every other stomachache is fine — but if none of the above is true, it’s less likely to be something serious. Try rest, fluids, and a bland diet (or extra fiber in the diet if your child is constipated). If your child isn’t getting better, especially if your child has vomiting or diarrhea that isn’t getting better, call your doctor. If your child has recurrent stomachaches, it’s incredibly helpful when parents keep a diary of the stomachaches, along with details of things like what they ate that day, what their stool was like, how they acted, etc. This information can go a long way toward helping the doctor figure out what is going on, and how to help.