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Tummy Troubles: When to Worry about Vomiting and Diarrhea 

October 31, 2018

According to the American Academy of pediatrics, stomach aches in children happens for all sorts of reasons. Stomach or abdominal pain that continues to occur is common, but usually not serious. Some children, including babies, vomit for unknown reasons. Some common reasons for vomiting include reflux or infection of the stomach, intestines and/or urinary tract.   

Diarrhea starts quickly and can lasts from 7 days to 2 weeks. There is no safe medication treatment for diarrhea in children, but it will usually stop on its own. Your child may have several loose bowel movements throughout the day. They may also have a fever, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and a loss of appetite.   

How to Manage Vomiting 

Encourage your child to drink smaller amounts of liquid more frequently. This will help to prevent dehydration. Children under 1 year old should continue drinking breast milk and formula. Children older than 1 year old should stick to a clear liquid diet until there is no vomiting for 8 hours. Examples of clear liquids include water, diluted juice, broth and gelatin. After 8 hours of no vomiting, children can progress to a BRAT diet that includes bland foods such as bananas, rice, applesauce and toast.  

How to Manage Diarrhea 

Give your child plenty of liquids. This will help to prevent dehydration. Continue to feed your child regular foods. Your child can continue to eat the foods he normally eats. This includes breast milk and formula for infants. You may need to feed your child smaller amounts of food than normal. You may also need to give your child foods that he can tolerate. These may include rice, potatoes and bread. It also includes fruits, well-cooked vegetables, lean meats, yogurt and skim or 1% milk. Avoid giving your child foods that are high in fiber, fat and sugar.   

When to Call Your Pediatrician

If your child has abdominal pain that comes on suddenly or persists it may require prompt attention, especially if your child has additional symptoms, such as a change in his bowel pattern, vomiting, fever (temperature of 100.4°F or higher), sore throat, or headache. Even when no physical cause can be found, the child's distress is genuine and should receive appropriate attention. 

Call your pediatrician promptly if your baby is younger than 1 year and shows signs of stomach pain (for example, legs pulled up toward the abdomen, unusual crying); if your child aged 4 years or younger has recurrent stomachache; or if abdominal pain awakes him or stops him from getting to sleep. 

Parents should consider taking their child to the Emergency Department if: 

  • Your child's vomit contains blood, bile (green substance), or it looks like it has coffee grounds in it   

  • Your child is irritable with a stiff neck and headache   

  • Your child has severe abdominal pain  

  • Your child says it hurts to urinate, or cries when he urinates  

  • Your child has signs of dehydration such as a dry mouth, crying without tears, or urinating less than 3 times in a 24 hour period  

  • Your child’s eyes look sunken in, or the soft spot on your infant's head looks sunken in  

  • Your child cannot drink any liquids   

  • Your child cries without tears   

  • Your child has blood in his bowel movements   

  • Your child has a seizure  

  • Your child seems confused and is not answering you, or you cannot wake him  

The Emergency Departments at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and Arkansas Children’s Northwest in Springdale are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for life’s little … and big … emergencies.

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