Dehydration: Vomiting in children

Vomiting is considered as a scary experience for children as well as the parents. It is good to note that the infections that cause vomiting do not typically last for a long period of time. On the other hand, when the child starts to vomit, he/she is at risk for dehydration that can be life-threatening in the long run and if not treated promptly. Being familiar with the indications of dehydration as well as measures to prevent one from occurring will help the child fully recovery.

What are the causes?

The typical cause of vomiting among children is viral gastroenteritis or the so-called “stomach flu” which involves irritation of the gastrointestinal tract by a virus. The vomiting that occurs without other symptoms longer than 24 hours might be an indication of a serious condition such as appendicitis.

Indications of dehydration

Always bear in mind that dehydration can occur if the child was not given any fluids. It is vital to replace the fluids that were lost through vomiting. You have to watch out for the following signs and symptoms dehydration.


The risk for dehydration can be determined based on the severity of the vomiting episodes.

  • Diminished urine output
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Irritability
  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Depressed soft eyes on the top of the head
  • Lack of tears while crying
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Skin dry or cool to the touch

If any of these symptoms of dehydration are present, it is vital to perform proper rehydration measure for mild cases. As for moderate to severe cases of dehydration due to constant vomiting, it is best to consult a doctor for proper treatment.

What are the risks of dehydration?

The risk for dehydration can be determined based on the severity of the vomiting episodes. A child is considered at minimal risk if he/she vomits 1-3 times in a day. There is moderate risk if he/she vomits 4-10 times in a day and at severe risk if he/she vomits all or almost everything that is being consumed. The time span the child has been vomiting must also be taken into consideration.


Vomiting can cause loss of fluids and electrolytes in the body, thus these should be replenished in order to avoid dehydration. There are several measures to rehydrate the child which includes the following:

  • Avoid any sodas or dairy products since these can worsen the vomiting.
  • Utilize an oral rehydration solution such as Pedialyte to replace the electrolytes.
  • Infants can be given a tablespoon of electrolyte solution every 15-20 minutes while children can be given 1-2 tablespoons every 15 minutes. You can also provide ice chips, clear broth, ginger ale and ice pops.

If the child was able to tolerate and has not vomited for 3-4 hours, you can steadily increase the amount of fluids given. In case the child has not vomited for 8 hours, breastfeeding can be continued as normal and slowly bring back formula into the diet. Children who do not vomiting for 8 hours can be given a bland diet such as rice, applesauce, plain toast, cereal and crackers. The child can return to his/her normal diet if there are no vomiting episodes for 24 hours.

Considerations to bear in mind

It is vital to schedule an appointment with a doctor for the following scenarios:

  • The child appears confused
  • Presence of bile or blood in the vomit
  • Fever higher than 104 degrees F that does not improve within 2 hours of giving medications
  • Child is less than 12 weeks old and has fever higher than 100.4 degrees F or vomited more than 2 times.
  • Child is less than 12 months of age and vomits the electrolyte solution more than 3 times with watery diarrhea.
  • Child vomits everything given for more than 8 hours.


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