When a Child Is Vomiting Is It OK to Give Them Milk?

Vomiting due to a virus -- also known as gastroenteritis -- can be a common yet upsetting condition in children. When your child experiences a vomiting episode, your chief priority is to keep him hydrated while the virus runs its course. Although milk is a common fluid source for kids, it is not the preferred choice when your child is vomiting because it does not offer enough electrolytes and may even be irritating to your child's stomach, according to the KidsHealth website. Always talk to your child's doctor about the best fluids to give him for a speedy return to health.

A mother helping her ill son drink an oral rehydration liquid. (Image: FlairImages/iStock/Getty Images)

Fluid Choices

When your child vomits, she not only loses food in her stomach, she also loses important electrolytes and fluids that help keep her heart, brain and muscles working at their best. Losing these electrolytes are why vomiting can be so dangerous to your child. Because your child may be able to keep down limited amounts of fluids, an oral rehydration solution is the preferred choice over milk, according to an article on Virtual Pediatric Hospital, a health and wellness website. Examples of oral rehydration solutions include Pedialye and Ricelyte, which you can give using a dropper if your child is very small.

Milk and Upset Stomach

In addition to oral electrolyte solutions being the preferred drink of choice when your child is vomiting, milk may not be the best choice for your child while his stomach is inflamed, according to NetDoctor, a pediatrician-reviewed website. This is because when your child's stomach is inflamed from vomiting, milk products are not absorbed well and can potentially irritate your child's stomach. If your child is older than 1, KidsHealth recommends waiting two to three days after vomiting subsides to give him milk.

Kids Under Age 1

The chief nutrition source for children under age 1 is typically cow's milk and/or breast milk. For this reason, you may wish to reintroduce it more quickly than you would to a child older than 1, according to KidsHealth. For children under age 1, try giving an oral rehydrating solution in small amounts -- about 0.5 to 1 ounce every five to 10 minutes -- for the first two hours she is sick. If she is able to keep these fluids down, continue to provide the electrolyte solution as you would a normal feeding. When your child has not vomited for eight hours, you can reintroduce breast milk or formula to ensure that she gets the nutrients she needs. However, you may wish to start with smaller feedings, such as 1 to 2 ounces, and then provide larger feedings as tolerated.

Warning

While vomiting can usually be treated at home, there are some cases in which your child may need emergency medical attention. According to Swedish Family Medicine in Seattle, these include signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth; lack of tears when your child cries; sunken eyes; or if your child has fewer than two wet diapers over the course of 12 hours if he is under 2. When you see your child's physician, you can ask when it would be appropriate to resume giving milk based on his symptoms.

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