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Nausea and Vomiting: What's Wrong?

Your child’s nausea has turned to vomiting, and you want to help them fast. Luckily, bouts of vomiting in kids aren’t usually harmful, and they pass quickly. Common causes are stomach viruses and sometimes food poisoning. Check in with your doctor if your child is less than 12 weeks old, acts sick, or if you are worried.

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Signs of Dehydration

One of the best things you can do is watch for dehydration. Kids get dehydrated more quickly than adults. Watch your child for: acting tired or cranky, dry mouth, fewer tears when crying, cool skin, sunken-looking eyes, not urinating as often as normal, and when they do go, not peeing very much or urine that is darker yellow.

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Treating Dehydration

To prevent and relieve dehydration, try to get your child to drink in very small amounts. Even if vomiting continues, they're still absorbing some of what you give them. Try ice chips, sips of water, sports drinks, or oral rehydration solutions like CeraLyte, Enfalyte, or Pedialyte. After they vomit, start with a small amount: a few tablespoons every few minutes. Over time, give them more as they are able to hold it down. Make sure they urinate regularly.

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What About Flat Soda?

For many years, parents used flat lemon/lime soda and ginger ale to help kids replace fluids, and many doctors still recommend those. But research has begun to show that oral rehydration solutions are better for kids. These drinks offer the right amounts of sugar and salt. An alternative can be a sports drink mixed with an equal amount of water.

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Liquid Diet

When it’s been several hours since your child last vomited, you can begin a clear liquid diet beyond just water, electrolyte drinks, or oral rehydration solutions. Stick with liquids you can see through. They are easier to digest, yet they offer nutrients to give your child energy. Think clear broth, cranberry juice, apple juice. Popsicles and Jell-O can work well, too.

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Vomiting in kids usually goes away with a little time. It’s best to wait it out. Over-the-counter medicines for vomiting are not recommended for kids. Those meds won’t help if a virus is the cause -- and it usually is. Fluids rather than drugs are the key. If vomiting is severe, though, doctors may prescribe something to prevent the nausea and vomitting.

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Home Remedy: Ginger

It’s been used for thousands of years to reduce pain and stomach ills. Researchers believe the chemicals in ginger work in the stomach and intestines as well as the brain and nervous system to control nausea. While it isn’t proven to stop nausea and vomiting in kids, it may be worth a shot. It’s safe for kids over 2. Ask your pediatrician how to try it.

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This technique has helped some with nausea. Acupressure puts pressure on one part of the body to bring about change elsewhere in the body. It’s similar to the ancient Chinese method of acupuncture. To try to quell a child’s nausea this way, use your middle and index fingers to press down on the groove between the two large tendons on the inside of their wrist that start at the palm of their hand.

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When to Call the Doctor

It’s time to get medical attention for a child if they:
• are under 12 weeks old and vomit more than once
• show signs of dehydration, or you suspect they ate or drank poison
• act confused; or have a high fever, a headache, rash, stiff neck, or stomach pains
• have blood or bile in their vomit, or you think they may have appendicitis
• are hard to wake up, look sick, have been vomiting for more than 8 hours, or if you’re worried

These are signs of what may be a serious underlying condition, and your child should at that point see a doctor.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 06/01/2020 Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on June 01, 2020

1) David Laurens/PhotoAlto Agency
2) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
3) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
4) Glowimages
5) Foodcollection
6) Ray Massey/Stone
7) Michael Rosenfeld/Photographers Choice
8) Steve Pomberg/WebMD
9) Michelle Lance / WebMD

Jamie Simonds, LPN, Capital Area Pediatrics, Falls Church, VA.

Johns Hopkins Children’s Center: “Nausea.”

Children’s Physician Network: “Dehydration.”

Nemours Foundation: “Dehydration.”

CDC: “Seasonal Influenza, Check for Fluid Loss.”

CBS News: “Flat Soda Doesn’t Help Dehydration.”

University of Maryland Medical Center: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Guide.”

MedlinePlus: “Diet -- Clear Liquid,” “Ginger.”

Medline: “Nausea and Acupressure.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “Vomiting.”

Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on June 01, 2020

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.