For vomiting children, the main risk is water loss, or dehydration, especially if fever causes them to sweat more or they are also losing fluid through diarrhea. When vomiting is severe or prolonged, a child may lose sodium, potassium, and chloride. These minerals have a crucial role in the transmission of nerve impulses and the contraction of muscles, and in regulating the body’s fluid balance.
While missing a meal or two will cause no harm to an otherwise healthy child, it’s important that a sick child continue to drink water to take care of normal daily needs, plus extra to make up for fluid loss and prevent dehydration. Young children are especially susceptible to dehydration because they are less efficient at conserving water than older children and adults. In addition, small body size means that it takes less fluid loss to lead to dehydration.
Offer frequent sips of water or, if your child doesn’t feel like drinking, ice chips to suck on. Build up to 1 oz an hour, then 2 oz an hour until the child is able to drink normally.
Your pediatrician may recommend a commercial rehydration solution to help replace lost sodium and potassium in a young child. These come in liquid and Popsicle-like forms to make them more appealing to children. It also makes certain that the liquid is taken slowly. Older children may ask for commercial sports drinks, but these should be used with care. They replace salts, but they also contain large amounts of sugar, which can make diarrhea worse. A child who wants a change from plain water may enjoy sips of fruit juice diluted half-and-half with water or flat soda. If your child is too sick to drink or listless, or shows signs of progressive dehydration such as dry mouth, fewer tears, or urinates less frequently, seek urgent medical attention. Contact your pediatrician immediately.