Also known as: emesis, throwing up, barfing

What is vomiting?

Vomiting is a symptom, not a disease and describes the reflexive act of emptying the contents of the stomach up through the mouth. It’s frequently accompanied by a "sick to the stomach" feeling known as nausea.

What causes vomiting?

Infants/children vomit for a variety of medical and surgical reasons depending on the age of the infant/child.
Infants frequently spit up small amounts of food after a meal (particularly when being "burped"). Vomiting may occur because of too rapid feeding, air swallowing or over feeding. The most common causes in infants are a viral infection of the gut (gastroenteritis- also known as stomach flu), gastroesophageal reflux, pyloric stenosis and bowel obstruction due to variety of bowel abnormalities. There are many other causes (metabolic disorders or infections in other parts of the body) which would need further investigation.
While in the older child acute viral gastritis/gastroenteritis is also common, bacterial and parasitic infections might be considered. In addition to other gastrointestinal causes of vomiting (food poisoning, food allergy, Peptic ulcers, appendicitis etc.) non-gastrointestinal causes include serious infections (sepsis, meningitis, appendicitis), injury or abnormalities of the brain, toxic ingestions (acetaminophen, alcohol, iron and others), motion sickness, migraine and others.

What are vomiting care options?

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. In general, initial management includes ensuring adequate oral fluid intake (preferably a solution containing electrolytes), and watching for signs of dehydration. If however vomiting goes on for a day or longer, consult with your doctor.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: March 11, 2020 09:29 AM