For a while when my oldest son was a toddler, he had a formidable "habit." We would go to a restaurant and at some point in the meal he would give a slight cough, and then the vomiting would start. Needless to say, this often made eating out awkward.

Like most vomiting episodes, it was fairly harmless, and he was fine afterward. We never knew what caused the vomiting, which can have several causes, such as a viral infection, nervousness over being somewhere new, food poisoning, motion sickness, and overeating. It can be triggered by certain smells, even coughing alone can cause it. In infants, a blocked intestine can cause vomiting, but this is rare.

Timing of Vomiting Can Signal Trouble, or Not

The timing of your child's nausea and vomiting may give an indication of its cause. For instance, food poisoning usually leads to nausea or vomiting a few hours after a meal. Vomiting can be a sign of a more serious illness, such as appendicitis, meningitis, migraine headache, or a concussion.

For children under six, if their vomiting coincides with diarrhea, dehydration, a fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or if the child hasn't urinated in six hours, see a health care provider. If a child over age six has the aforementioned symptoms, their vomiting lasts for a full day, and he has a temperature over 102, you should consult a physician.

When to Call a Doctor

If your child is tired, has decreased alertness, a severe headache or a stiff neck, if there's blood in the vomit (it may look like coffee grounds), or if she has severe abdominal pain, then seek medical attention immediately.

There are a few things that you can do to ease, and maybe relieve, the discomfort of nausea and vomiting. Have your child:

  • Drink clear or cold drinks, and be sure to drink slowly
  • Avoid brushing her teeth after eating
  • Don't mix hot and cold foods
  • Avoid fried, greasy foods (that's a good rule anytime)
  • Eat light, bland foods (try Saltine crackers, plain bread, or even a banana)
  • Ease up on activity and get some rest

How to Comfort a Child With an Upset Stomach

Sucking on mints, drinking a cup of warm, diluted mint tea, or sipping some Coca Cola has helped quell nausea at my house. When it comes to vomiting, staying hydrated is essential. Young children may be able to stomach ice pops or Pediapops — the cold is often very satisfying, too.

Another potential solution is to offer a cup of tepid water with a tiny pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar (those last two ingredients are added to replenish lost electrolytes). There is some disagreement, but many believe drinks with sugar may actually calm the tummy better than other liquids. Make sure your little one gets plenty of rest, either sitting up, or lying on his side. Limit snacks, and don't let your child both eat and play at the same time.

As always, if you suspect something isn't quite right, err on the side of caution and visit a health care provider.

This post was included in The Homesteading Carnival #161.