All children vomit from time to time, but frequent vomiting should be taken more seriously. Children—especially young children—with frequent vomiting may require admission to the hospital for management of dehydration. In addition, frequent vomiting can cause complications such as bleeding, aspiration of vomit into the lungs and the development of scar tissue that interferes with swallowing.
According to pediatricians Judith M. Sondheimer and Shikha Sundaram in the 2009 edition of “Current Diagnosis and Treatment: Pediatrics,” viral gastroenteritis or what many people call "stomach flu" accounts for most cases of childhood vomiting. The disease, which is caused by pathogens such as rotavirus, calcivirus, norovirus and others, results in frequent vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and sometimes fever. Although symptoms are sometimes severe, they are also self-limited, typically resolving within a few days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn that there is no effective treatment for viral gastroenteritis, so parents should look to prevention through frequent hand washing and safe food handling as a best bet.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, strikes children as well as adults, but triggers vomiting more often in kids. In infants, it’s called “spitting up.” According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), symptoms usually peak at four months and resolve on their own by 12 months. Older children with GERD experience classic symptoms of burning pain, regurgitation of small volumes into the mouth following snacks and meals, and swallowing problems. Regardless of age, children with GERD should be evaluated by a pediatrician.
Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome
Recurrent, forceful bouts of vomiting—as many as six episodes per hours for three days or more—characterize cyclic vomiting syndrome. Children may experience the episodes as frequently as two to three times per month or as rarely as once per year. MayoClinic.com reports that the disease usually begins between the ages of three and seven. Nausea, retching, and vomiting of small volumes of bile continues even after the stomach is emptied. Sondheimer and Sundaram note that many affected children have a family history of migraines, and migraine medication is sometimes effective. Symptoms also subside with sleep.