What causes vomiting and diarrhea?
Vomiting (throwing up) and
diarrhea (frequent, watery bowel movements) can be caused by
viruses, bacteria, parasites, foods that are hard to digest (such as
too many sweets) and other things.
Can vomiting and
diarrhea be dangerous for children?
They can be. Vomiting and
diarrhea can be harmful to children because they can cause
dehydration. Dehydration occurs when too much fluid is lost from the
body. Signs of dehydration are listed in the box below.
babies can become dehydrated quickly. But dehydration can occur in a
child of any age.
Signs of dehydration.
- Not eating as well as usual
- Weight loss
- Not urinating ("peeing") as often as usual
- Urine that is darker than usual
- Fast heartbeat
- Dry mouth
- Thirst (babies may show thirst by crying and being irritable
and eager to drink when something is offered)
- Sunken eyes
- No tears when crying
- Sunken soft spot in babies younger than 18 months
- Skin that isn't as springy as usual
How can I prevent dehydration?
If your child has had
several bouts of vomiting or diarrhea, he or she will need to drink
fluids to replace those lost with vomiting and diarrhea. Encourage
your older child (older than 2) to drink water and other clear
fluids. Ask your doctor about giving your baby or toddler an oral
rehydration solution (ORS), which contains the right mix of salt,
sugar, potassium and other elements to help replace lost body
What can I give my older child to
Children older than 2 can have drinks such as apple
juice, chicken broth, sports drinks (Gatorade) or tea.
that have caffeine in them shouldn't be given because caffeine
increases the amount of water and salt the body
Should I give my child ORS?
If your child is
under age 2 and/or you're worried that he or she is dehydrated, ask
your doctor about using ORS. ORS comes as a powder that you mix with
water, a liquid that is already mixed and as frozen
Brands of ORS include Pedialyte, Ricelyte,
Rehydralyte and the World Health Organization's Oral Rehydration
Solution (WHO-ORS). Ask your doctor about which to
How should I give ORS if my child is
If your child is vomiting, try giving him or her
small amounts of ORS often, such as 1 teaspoonful every minute. When
your child is able to keep the drink down, slowly increase how much
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 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 ORS you give each time and
lengthen the time between when you give ORS to 3 to 4 hours.
Keep giving ORS until your child stops
How should I give ORS if my child has
If your child has diarrhea and isn't vomiting, give
him or her ORS freely. Your doctor may ask you to keep track of how
much your child drinks. You can use a dropper, a spoon or a medicine
cup to keep track.
Should I feed my child when he or she
Yes. Even though eating may cause the amount of
diarrhea to increase, your child will be able to get some nutrients
from the food. This may prevent your child from losing too much
weight and help your child get better quicker.
babies. If you are breast-feeding, keep breast-feeding while
you're giving ORS.
Formula-fed babies. If you've been
giving your baby formula, some doctors suggest switching from
formula to ORS for up to 12 to 24 hours and then switching back to
giving formula. Talk to your doctor about what to
Children on food. Children should begin eating
within 12 to 24 hours after starting to take ORS. Avoid foods with a
lot of sugar and fat, such as ice cream, gelatin, pudding and fried
If your child has had diarrhea, it's best to avoid
dairy products for 3 to 7 days.
Sometimes bland foods are
recommended for the first 24 hours. Bland foods include bananas,
rice, applesauce, toast and unsweetened cereals. If these foods
don't bother your child, you can add other foods over the next 48
hours. Most children can return to normal eating habits about 3 days
after the vomiting and/or diarrhea stop.
Should I give my
child medicine to stop diarrhea?
This usually isn't needed.
Diarrhea doesn't usually 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 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.
my child need to go to the hospital?
Probably not, unless the
dehydration is 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: