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Vomiting in Kids: The Most Important Thing to Do and When to Worry
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  • Fact: if you're a parent, there's no escaping kid barf. Vomiting is usually not a cause for alarm for children old enough to run around and play. Dehydration, however, is always something to watch out for if your child is throwing up. There are also several symptoms that can point to a problem. Here's what you need to know: 

    (Note: If your child is vomiting repeatedly, call your doctor immediately. Always consult with a medical professional if you're worried about your child's vomiting.) 

    1. Keep calm
    Motion sickness, stress, or even getting too excited can cause some kids to vomit occasionally, according the U.K. National Health Service (NHS). During these instances, your child needs reassurance and comfort more than anything else.

    For vomiting that lasts a few days, gastroenteritis, or the stomach flu, is a common culprit. It is typically caused by a virus and can be accompanied by diarrhea and fever. The majority of cases will get better on their own, according to HealthyChildren, the parenting health resource site of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

    There are also uncommon but serious conditions that can induce vomiting including a bladder infection, an intestinal obstruction and meningitis. (Symptoms of these can be found in the last section of this article.)

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    2. Give fluids
    Replacing the fluids your child loses should be the top priority, said HealthyChildren. “If allowed to reach a severe degree, it can be serious and life-threatening.”

    According to KidsHealth, vomiting kids should take small sips of clear liquid, like water or soup broth, in regular intervals. Sucking on ice chips or a popsicle made from watered down juice are options too. As the vomiting becomes less frequent, the amount of fluid intake should increase. Sodas and juices should be avoided. For oral rehydration solutions, a pediatrician can be consulted for recommendations.

    Seek medical attention if you see signs of dehydration in your child:

    • peeing less frequently than usual
    • dry mouth and tongue
    • rapid breathing
    • no tears when crying
    • dizziness
    • sunken eyes
    • sleepiness and irritability

    3. Avoid solids if your child can't take it
    Solid foods are more likely to induce vomiting than liquids, so a child should not be forced to eat if she's not feeling well enough. “Your child will tell you when he or she is hungry. Your child might want bland foods–saltine crackers, toast, mashed potatoes, mild soups–to start out with,” said KidsHealth

    “Once your preschooler's vomiting diminishes or stops and his appetite returns, you can slowly reintroduce healthful foods. The AAP recommends that a child recovering from stomach troubles resume a normal diet as soon as possible,” advised BabyCenter. Nutritious food like lean meat, complex carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables are best. 

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    4. Don't give medication
    Medication to treat nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are not recommended for children. Never give your child such drugs unless specifically prescribed by a physician, said the AAP. 

    5. Be observant for signs of a serious problem

    Though uncommon, there are serious conditions that can cause vomiting in children including a bladder infection, meningitis, and an intestinal obstruction. Seek immediate medical attention if you observe any of these in your child: 

    • dehydration
    • repeated vomiting and unable to hold down fluids
    • severe abdominal pain, which can be a sign of appendicitis
    • swollen or tender abdomen, which can be a sign of a digestive tract problem
    • vomiting after a head injury
    • vomit that contains a significant or increasing amount of blood
    • vomit that is green in color, which would indicate the presence of bile and is a sign of blocked intestines   
    • vomiting accompanied by stiff neck, fever, and rashes, which are symptoms of meningitis
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    You know your child best. For any concerns or worries about your child’s health, don’t hesitate to consult a doctor. 

    Sources: AAP, NHS, KidsHealth, Mayo Clinic

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