Parents often feel uncomfortable when their children are unable to eat or hold down food or fluids. Many mild illnesses may lead to a “sour stomach” or an inability to hold down food. Sometimes nausea and vomiting may be signs of a more serious condition. Follow this chart for more information about these problems.

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1. Is your child an infant, and is your infant throwing up small amounts of formula after a feeding? Yes --> This is probably “SPITTING UP,” a common occurrence for infants on formula. Less common is a LACTOSE INTOLERANCE or MILK ALLERGY. --> Your baby may be gulping air or may have taken too much formula, or the formula may be upsetting your child’s stomach. Discuss this with your child’s doctor at the next visit. Call your child’s doctor right away if the vomiting gets worse.
No, go down
2. Is your child an infant under 10 weeks of age, and does your infant forcefully vomit large amounts of formula or fluid or appear to be dehydrated? Yes --> This type of vomiting may be from a blockage at the end of the stomach called PYLORIC STENOSIS. --> See your child’s doctor right away. Pyloric stenosis can be serious and may require surgery.
No, go down
3. Is your child an infant, and is your infant crying uncontrollably, possibly while pulling his or her knees to the chest, and does your infant have red-colored diarrhea and continue to vomit all liquids? Yes --> Your child may have an OBSTRUCTION of the intestines called INTUSSUSCEPTION. --> Call your child’s doctor right away.
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4. Does your child have diarrhea along with nausea or vomiting? Yes --> Vomiting and diarrhea may be from VIRAL GASTROENTERITIS or possibly from a problem with a FORMULA. --> See your child’s doctor if the vomiting and/or diarrhea continue or get worse. Watch carefully for fever and make sure your child is drinking fluids to avoid DEHYDRATION.
No, go down


A. Has your infant (age two years and under) been vomiting continuously for 6 to 12 hours?

B. Has your child (age two and above) been vomiting continuously for 12 to 24 hours?

Yes --> Your infant or child may be on the verge of DEHYDRATION. --> Call your child’s doctor right away.
No, go down
For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.