Vomiting is a symptom that occurs often in young children, especially when they have the stomach flu. In most cases, episodes of vomiting should pass within 24 hours, but if vomiting continues or your child is vomiting blood, contact your pediatrician. Vomiting blood is not always a symptom of a serious medical problem, but it needs to be evaluated by a health care professional.
Common causes of vomiting include food poisoning, viral infection, bacterial infections and parasites in the gastrointestinal tract. Other medical conditions that can cause a child to vomit include disorders affecting the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and intestines. Blood in a child’s vomit could signal a problem in the esophagus, stomach or upper part of the small intestine.
Reason for Concern
Vomiting blood is not necessarily a sign that something serious is wrong. Often, blood in the vomit is nothing to worry about and may occur when the force of vomiting causes tiny tears in the blood vessels lining the esophagus. Sometimes, there can be a streak of blood in a child’s vomit if he had a nosebleed and swallowed some blood. If your child continues to have blood in his vomit or the amount increases, call his pediatrician. Take your child immediately to an emergency room if he vomits large amounts of blood. The condition is rare, but tears in the throat from forceful vomiting can get larger and cause significant bleeding. Your child could also have a blockage in the upper small intestine.
Vomiting may be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, fever, general fatigue and irritability. Other symptoms to watch for in your child include deep, rapid breathing, reduced frequency of urination, abdominal pain and pale skin. Sometimes, a child’s vomiting can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Take your child to an emergency room if her vomit contains green bile or blood that looks like dark coffee grounds. If this is the case, your child may have bleeding in the upper gastrointestinal tract that requires immediate medical attention. If you can, take a sample of your child’s vomit with you for the doctor to examine.
Complication of Dehydration
Even in the absence of a more serious underlying medical condition, vomiting that lasts for more than 24 hours can lead to dehydration, especially if your child has diarrhea as well. It doesn’t matter what the cause of the vomiting; your child loses a lot of fluids when he vomits. Dehydration is a common side effect of persistent vomiting; especially if a child doesn’t drink enough fluids to replenish the water his body loses. Left untreated, dehydration can cause dangerous complications or be life threatening.
Keeping a child hydrated is essential when she is sick and vomiting. Give her body adequate amounts of fluids to prevent dehydration. If blood in the vomit is not serious, wait until persistent vomiting slows down to every one or two hours. Offer your child small sips of fluids about every 10 minutes to start. An oral electrolyte solution and white grape juice are best. Try to get your child to sleep more as this may help to settle her stomach. The stomach usually empties into the intestines during sleep, quieting your child’s need to vomit.
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