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Nausea, Vomiting & Gagging

Berkeley Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Health > Nausea, Vomiting & Gagging


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Two-year-old's barf with no smell?

Jan 2008

This is going to sound weird, but my 2 year old threw up last night a couple of hours after eating dinner and there was zero barf smell. When he threw up again an hour later there was still no smell. The reason I'm over-analyzing this is that when he was a baby he would throw up certain foods exactly 2 hrs. after eating due to an undiagnosed allergy, though it did always smell like barf. So, consequently, every time he throws up I go into panic mode fearing that it's indicating a new allergy. He and his 4 year old brother (w/no known allergies) had a round of barfing, probably food poisoning, just before Christmas so it seems a little soon for another bug though I guess it is that time of year. Any insight, advice, soothing words, etc. will be GREATLY appreciated (and especially by my husband!).


When my kids do the clear or no smell barf, it usually is because they have a cold or flem that they are trying to expel. Little kids don't necessarily know how to do this so they end up throwing up. barf expert

13-month-old gagging himself with his fingers

Dec 2006

My 13 month old just started to stick his fingers in his mouth until he gags. it seems to happen throughout the day not necessarily related to when he has eaten. last night he vomited though we are not sure if he caused this himself. could it be that he knows he has something he needs to rid his system of and he's trying to do that? or that he has just learned how to do this and so he is repeating it for the novelty of it? does anyone have any experience with this sort of thing? any advice is greatly appreciated! Lisa


I thought my son was the only one who did this! He's now 15 months, but at around a year old he went through a phase of sticking his fingers down his throat until he gagged - he did it in the car, at home, in the bath etc. He only vomited once and it was just a little bit. We figured he was just exploring his body and all the strange sensations he could create in it. It did bother me though - especially in the car - but nothing I did seemed to change it. It didn't seem at all related to what he'd eaten or the state of his stomach. He's stopped the gagging, but now he often pulls his own hair and yells oww!! while doing it. He finds the whole thing hilarious, but often pulls hard enough that I'm sure he's actually hurting himself too. Again, I think it's just exploratory. My daughter never did anything like this. Maybe it's a boy thing. been there
Our son did that for a while around the same time. Freaked us out. We discouraged it but not heavily at all, so that it wouldn't become more enticing. He stopped after a while. We talked to others whose kids had done the same. Seems okay. Jenny
Our son did exactly the SAME thing. He did it because he wanted our reactions and he was discovering his body. It really freaked me out because he vomited hard twice. Just ignore it completely and boost the positive attention elsewhere. We used it as an opportunity to learn names of body parts. When he pointed to them we made a big deal and within a few days he stopped! anon mom
weird. my son started doing the same thing at about the same age. no one was more amazed than he was when he made himself barf. my guess is that it provides some kind of oral stimulation that they like. he's 2 now and doesn't do it any more. kmom

21-month-old is throwing up every day

May 2005

i have a 21 month old who has been throwing up everyday sometimes twice for the last few days. he shows no other sign of illness except a snotty nose (clear) he has a 5 week old sister and I strongly suspect its an emotional reaction to her presence. he's generally a very sweet, easy going kid and has shown no signs of regression that you expect with a new sibling. he has the normal moments of frustration, hitting, whining that are hard to differientiate what's about his sister and what is just his age.

we try to give him as much positive attention, reassurance and mommy time as possible. he does seem to be curious about the baby and likes to kiss her and point out her body parts which he's recently learned to say. he's generally a fun kid, but the throwing up is getting really old, really fast. often in the evening around bath and bed time which he does not have to share with the baby but sometimes hears her crying in the background while someone else holds her.

any ideas? mom of a throw-up kid


My daughter also went through an odd throw-up period when she was a toddler. Her symptoms were very similar -- no sign of fever or even a runny nose, but she tended to barf in the evening, especially after dinner. At first I thought she was just trying to demonstrate how very much she didn't like her dinner . . . but after a few days of this I took her into the doctor. We're with Kaiser and fortunately the pediatrician knew what it was right away -- she was severely constipated!! She had been pooping but I guess not enough, and over a period of weeks had basically backed up to the point where there was not enough room in her tummy for a full dinner -- hence the vomiting. He confirmed this diagnosis with an x-ray and we had to give her an enema (yuk) but it was all over in a day.

My daughter is now an older teenager but to this day she tends to get constipated whenever she is under stress, particularly when we are traveling. Perhaps your toddler is having a similar response to the stress of a new baby?

In the interests of protecting my teenager's identlty I will just sign myself as . . . been there, done that


stomach virus. my daughter has had it too. deb
We have the same problem with our 26 month old. If he has a full stomach AND gets upset usually he'll throw up. In our case it appears to be an emotional issue and not a digestive issue. He wants attention, you can't give it to him, he throws up and then the whole world stops and he gets his attention.

Although this is probably emotional you can reduce the chances of him doing this.

1) Try not to have your toddler eat too late at night right before bed. If he goes to day care find out what his eating was like that day and plan accordingly. It's not good for them (or us) to lie down with a full stomach, it leads to indigestion, heart burn and nausea.

2) Do not to give them too much milk before or in bed. Milk is hard to digest, and whole milk has a lot of fat, which babies/toddler's need, but it is hard to digest.

3) Try to keep them from getting upset after eating. If they are really cranky you need to try calm them down, stop what you are doing, include them into your activities, get down on your knees and look them in the eye. (Maybe you can give him little task to help with his sister when you are doing something with her ''get mommy sister's shirt. good boy'').

Of course if it continues see a doctor, we did and we were told it's not uncommon for babies and toddlers to do this. Medication exist to help toddlers digest but only put them on medication if you know for sure it is not an emotional problem or it's getting otu of hand. Joe G


Random vomiting - 4 year old

May 2004

My happy healthy 4-year-old daughter has started randomly vomiting. It's happened about 6 times in the last couple of months. It's not a bid for attention, as sometimes it happens in the middle of the night, then she just wants to go back to bed. Nor is it a ploy to avoid something she doesn't want to do, as it has occured before a day at the beach, or before preschool, which she loves. She lies down for half an hour afterward, then is fine. There have also been several episodes of just general stomach upset, which is new for her. I'm asking about this here rather than taking her to the doctor because I can't imagine that a doctor could find anything wrong with her based on these symptoms. She is always fine soon after, and there's only a little bit of vomit, usually. She never has a fever or any other symptoms. Anybody else had this situation? concerned


It sounds to me like she might be slightly lactose intolerant or have some other type of food allergy. On the days she threw up did she drink more milk than usual? The slightly lactose intolerant members of my family can drink about 4 ounces of milk at a time without cramps and/or vomiting. Your daughter could have had this condition for a long time but only now if she is drinking increased amounts of milk is it becoming a problem. liz
call the doctor. That's what they are there for. They can look for things that you wouldn't think of, and do blood tests, etc. Don't delay. janet
I would take your child in to see the doctor, or at least call the doctor and describe the symptoms and see if s/he can give you some guidelines or advice. You say that you ''can't imagine that a doctor could find anything wrong with her based on these symptoms,'' but the doctor (hopefully) is trained to look at a constellation of symptoms and come up with a diagnosis. The symptoms may seem perplexing to you, if you are not medically trained, but it may seem clear to the MD. In any case, at least the doctor could check your child out and rule out some problems. May as well ask

16-month-old throws up daily at daycare, never at home

July 2003

My 16 month old son just started daycare 2 weeks ago. Its a home day care where hes the only child until sepetember. Hes been throwing up everyday at the daycare so far.

The care provider says this happens when she feeds him- he seems to gag and eventually throws up whats in his stomach. I cant see a pattern in the triggers. Once it was rice, once it was milk, another time it was the yoghurt he ate successfully the previous 4 days. I started grinding his lunch, but that didnt help either. Have currently regressed to sending jar food with him, but he threw that up 1 day too.

The strange thing is - at home he will eat anything that catches his fancy ( mostly stuff he sees his elder sister eating)- fruit ( that I peel & make into pieces), rice, bread... without a problem..

Any insight into whats going on is much appreciated.


My daughter threw up often in a home daycare, too. Always right at nap time. I never figured out exactly why, but it might have been that she was eating too much lunch and then being told to lay down right away for nap, when she wasn't really tired yet. She stayed in daycare for only six months (starting at 14 months old) and really didn't like it much toward the end. It seems she found the home daycare too boring. She has been in preschool for over a year and only threw up when she was really ill. LC
Sounds like a psychological thing. I think he's traumatized by the new daycare situation.
First and foremost see a gastrointerologist (stomach/liver/intestine doctor) to make sure everything is working properly. However I have been a childcare provider for years. It does not sound like a food allergy but nerves, anxiety, basically stress related to his being separated from his primary caretaker (you) for extended periods of time. Children who are in day care tend to have elevated levels of Cortisone (stress hormone) as opposed to children who are at home. This could cause the child to throw up (almost like stage fright.) Learning problems such as ''ADHD'' (I put it in parenthesis because I think it is sometimes over or mis- diagnosed) are more prevalent in children who have been placed in daycare for many years. And as an elementary teacher, I can usually tell by the first day of school which children are latch- key (meaning they go to daycare after school, or go home to an empty house) and which go home to parents, because of behavioral differences. It is up to you what decision you make in regards to keeping you child in his current situation anon
I didn't see the original question... on how many different days and times within one day did the child vomit at the daycare? After evaluating possible reaction to food or food- borne illness, you may want to check if pesticides are used in the childcare facility. Ask several sources because sometimes teachers or even Directors can mistakenly assume that pesticides are not sprayed. For example, if the building is being rented,there is often little communication of such info from landowner who contracts out the work to the contractor, and the teachers/director. I've seen it happen many times.

A common acute symptom of organophosphate pesticide poisoning is vomitting. Diazinon and Dursban are two common and very toxic pesticides used for ants and termites. Genetic makeup can render more susceptibility to organophosphate poisoning to a signficicant percentage of the population. A damaged form of an enzyme which breaks down the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine renders 4% of the population more susceptible to organophosphate poisoning. In addition, yet another enzyme,paraoxonase, which acts to deactivate organophosphate, has been found in about 35% of the population to be less functional according to the literature.

Persons who may have genetic susceptibility as well as being exposed to organophosphate pesticides may exhibit symptoms whereas other around them may not. Dursban and Diazinon have been banned by US EPA in 2000 for use in residential structures but still legal to sell/buy/spray by contractors until 2004. So watch out for them on sale! Fetus & children are much more susceptible to the neurological damage these pesticides are known to cause, particularly under the age of 5-6.

An intruiging report on toxic threats to children's development written by the Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility and the Clean Water Fund can be found at: www.igc.org/psr/.

If pesticides are ruled out, you may want to find out what they are using to clean the facility. Both during school, and after school. For more info on safer alternative cleaning methods, you can look at www.pfse.net. For info on industrial cleaning products recommended by Green Seal, see their Sept- Oct '99 and March '98 issues on line. Susan


Toddler gagging on food and throwing up

May 2003

Our otherwise normal and healthy 21-month-old has been having some trouble chewing and swallowing his food properly. About once a week, on average, he gags on some food and throws up. Usually the offending food is something soft and innocuous that he's eaten successfully other times, such as pasta. (For example, twice it was on Annie's shells, which are tiny, the size of your pinky.)

I have talked to his peditrician several times about this. Basically, because our son is happy and healthy, she's not really interested in seeing him. She said some kids just gag easily, and they tend to get better as they get older. She offered the hypothesis that he has reflux, and said we could have a test done where he swallows barium and they Xray him, but it seems like a lot to put him through when the results would not be that helpful. If we seriously thought he had reflux, we could put him on (relatively innocuous) anti-reflux drugs without the test, but given the relative infrequency of the problem and the circumstances in which it occurs (almost always when he's eating, although he has thrown up a few times when he wasn't eating anything (and he wasn't sick)) we don't think it's reflux.

There are several mysteries about the situation. One is that he was pretty good at eating food from about 12-18 months; this problem started around 18 months. Another is that, as far as we can determine, he has never gagged on food while he's with his nanny. I've quizzed her about what she feeds him, and it's pretty much identical to what we offer him; she doesn't cut his food in smaller pieces or anything. He shares his nanny with another toddler who's a voracious eater; if anything, you'd think that would make our son more likely to gulp down his food without chewing it well. But although DH and I have considered, many times, the possibility that our son is gagging for attention, it really doesn't seem that way.

Someone I talked to knew a kid with a similar problem who was helped by speech therapy. This seemed like a weird idea to me, especially since my son is quite a good talker, but apparently the speech therapist enabled him to use his mouth more effectively.

Does anyone have a recommendation for a Chewing Therapist, or other advice on helping our son get over this yucky problem? Barfy in Berkeley


I would love to talk to you about this, and will be interested to see what others say. My daughter, almost two, also just started this. (She even starts gagging when we put a bib on her!) Melissa

14-month-old is making himself throw up

March 2003

My 14 month old did a strange thing at breakfast this morning - he put his finger down his throat so far that he gagged and threw up. He had a normal breakfast of bananas and cereal, didn't seem at all sick either before or after this, and didn't even seem very bothered by throwing up. It seemed more like he was kind of interested in what would happen if he did this. Later that morning he seemed to be doing the same thing with his toothbrush (which I give him while I brush my teeth in the interest of getting him familiar with it), but I quickly took the toothbrush away. Has anyone else's child ever done this? Is this normal or should I be worried? puzzled


I'm curious what any ''experts'' would say about this, but, as the mother of a toddler, I can recount a similar thing with my boy. I was aware that I wanted to discourage him from doing it (he just made himself gag), but I primarily did NOT want to put a big charge on the issue. I just gently asked him not to do it, and moved on to the next thing. I remember being somewhat worried, but was also aware that he was experimenting with his body. He stopped doing it, and I was glad not to have fretted. anonymous
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