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Vomiting & Diarrhea FAQs

What if it seems like everything I give goes right through my child?

  • Remember when you first brought your child home as an infant? Every time you fed him, he soiled his diaper. This is because the body has a gastro-colic reflex, and there is no tone to the anal sphincter when children are very young. Every time you introduce something into the stomach, the colon starts moving things along and the rectal sphincter relaxes to expel whatever happens to be down there. If things are moving rapidly through the intestinal tract (as in the case of a viral illness), the contents do not sit in the colon/rectum long enough for the body to reabsorb any excess water. This is why it appears that the fluids you are giving by mouth are coming out immediately the other end. Be persistent during this challenging time. Continue to administer fluids and the body will eventually recover.

What do I give an infant experiencing vomiting or diarrhea?

  • In general, children under 12 months of age should receive fluid replacement in the form of Pedialyte or one of the other electrolyte replacement solutions on the market in small amounts. If your child is not vomiting, keep offering fluids as tolerated and monitor hydration status.
  • If you are breastfeeding, continue to do so with small, frequent feedings.
  • If you are bottle feeding, offer only Pedialyte for the first 24 hours. Then switch to a non-milk-based or lactose-free formula for a few days. It is often a good idea to do 24 hours of Pedialyte only, followed by 12-24 hours of half-Pedialyte, half-lactose-free/soy formula, followed by full-strength (mixed according to the directions on the can) lactose-free/soy formula for a few days.
  • If your child is eating solids, you can reintroduce bland foods once you know they are tolerating full strength formula.

When should I be concerned about my child vomiting or experiencing diarrhea?

  • Seek medical attention if your child appears dehydrated, symptoms persist longer than expected (vomiting continues longer than 24 hours and/or diarrhea persists longer than 7 days), your child appears very ill/listless, abdominal pain or diarrhea is accompanied by severe abdominal pain/cramps and/or has mucus or blood in it.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • No tears with crying
  • The inside of the mouth looks dry or tacky
  • Not urinating at least 3 times in 24 hours
  • Significant lethargy, irritability or weakness.
  • Sunken fontanelle in infants.

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