It’s fairly well-known that children are little germ-magnets, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a little unnerving to see a body as tiny as Baby’s deal with vomiting. Generally, though, it’s only a sign of the type of stomach bug that will become more and more common as they start spending more and more time with peers and those peers’ viruses. Vomiting is still a symptom to keep a close eye on, though, both because there’s always the chance that it could be a sign of something more serious and because if it persists, dehydration starts to become a concern.
Vomiting vs. spitting up
The first thing to determine is whether your child is actually vomiting, or just spitting up. Spit up usually happens soon after Baby has eaten, especially if they have been especially active afterwards. Spit-up is also a fairly gentle regurgitation of partially digested breast milk or formula. Spit up isn’t a sign of a health problem, just a sign that the valve between Baby’s stomach and esophagus isn’t fully formed yet. You can help Baby avoid it by burping them frequently, and keeping them from rushing off into play that’s too active directly after eating.
Vomit, on the other hand, is a forceful throwing up of what’s in a child’s stomach, and goes along with strong contractions of the abdominal muscles and diaphragm. Parents of babies under 2 months who are not spitting up but vomiting should seek medical attention immediately, but children a few months old or older are most likely just suffering from a stomach virus, most of which can be handled at home, though there are a few warning signs to look out for.
Reasons to call the doctor
While most baby vomit just means your little one has been unlucky enough to contract a nasty stomach virus, there are a few things that can come along with vomiting that are warning signs that they should probably see their doctor sooner rather than later.
- Blood or dark green bile in the vomit
- Severe abdominal pain
- Vomiting that lasts longer than 24 hours
- Swollen abdomen
- Severe abdominal pain
- Frequent diarrhea or diarrhea with blood or mucus in it
- Signs of dehydration
Dehydration is one of the main concerns that can happen as a result of the vomiting that comes from a stomach bug. Twelve or more hours of consistent vomiting may cause dehydration, especially if it’s frequent enough that Baby is having a hard time keeping fluids down. Babies 3 months and under should stick to breast milk or formula for hydration, while babies 3 months and older may also be given some kind of electrolyte-replenishing liquid, like Pedialyte. Babies with signs of serious dehydration, like dry mouth, tearless cries, or a depression of “soft spots” on the head should get immediate medical attention. If you suspect they are only mildly dehydrated, it’s generally fine to just call their doctor for advice. Between vomiting and the mild fevers that often come with stomach viruses, mild dehydration is fairly common, even if you’re careful to hydrate.
Other signs of dehydration, like listlessness, dark urine, and not enough wet diapers in a 24 hour period should be addressed by offering frequent feedings, and checking in with a doctor for advice.