What to Do When Your Child Is Sick

Source: Sendai City Hospital Emergency & Critical Care Center
This document prepared with the cooperation of Miyagi Network for Children

HOME > Vomiting and diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea

Around 80 to 90 percent of vomiting and diarrhea cases in children are caused by a viral infection, with 10 to 15 percent of the remaining cases caused by bacterial infection and the remainder caused by things like an immature digestive tract or catching a chill. You should regard vomiting and diarrhea as protective responses by your child’s body to rid the system of the virus/bacteria and facilitate recovery as quickly as possible. In many cases, diarrhea can be accompanied by high fever and vomiting. Even after fever and vomiting cease, diarrhea may continue for a while. There are also cases where nausea and vomiting follow after your child badly injures his/her head. Under such circumstances, emergency medical treatment may be required.

If your child is showing only mild symptoms (as listed below) at night or on a holiday, you should consult your pediatrician the following business day.

  • (S)he is drinking and eating in small amounts at a time.
  • The frequency of vomiting/diarrhea is low and s(he) is in a relatively good mood.

If your child has the following symptoms on a weekday during operating hours, seek medical attention. At night or on a holiday, please consult with your pediatrician by phone. There are some cases where visiting your pediatrician can wait until the following day, and some cases where a night visit is necessary.

  • Your child will not take food or water.
  • Urination occurs only one time in a half day period or urine color is darker than usual.
  • Stool contains blood (runny red or black stool).
  • Your child’s vomit contains blood or is green in color.
  • Vomiting/diarrhea continues even though your child has not eaten or drunk.
  • Your child is lethargic and appears exhausted.
  • Your child has a severe stomachache.
  • Nausea/vomiting continues after a bad head injury.
    → Your child should see a neurosurgeon in this case.

What should you do when your child is vomiting or has diarrhea?

How to give fluids

As in the case of a fever, children suffering from bouts of vomiting and diarrhea may become dehydrated easily and require extra fluids and sodium. (Fluid and sodium are both lost as a result of vomiting and diarrhea.) We recommend you give your child things like ionized water (aqua light / OS-1), vegetable soup, and cold miso soup in small amounts (approximately 50ml) at a time. Please note that there are cases when your child may vomit again after taking fluids. If that happens, take a break for 30 to 60 minutes and try again by offering fluids one teaspoonful at a time.

How to give solids

You should remember that diarrhea may not stop if you insist that your child eat solids. It is important to start with fluids first so that his/her stomach can settle down. When his/her appetite returns, start by offering easy-to-digest solids such as udon noodles or rice porridge.

Keep your child’s bottom clean

As your child’s stool contains fluids from the digestive system, his/her bottom may become irritated if stool is in contact with the anus for prolonged periods. Therefore, you should wash his/her bottom with warm water and wipe it with a soft cloth as required (no need to wash the bottom every time). Commercially available baby wipes are not recommended as they sometimes contain alcohol.

What you should remember after changing your child’s diapers or cleaning up his/her vomit

Your child’s stool and vomit contain lots of bacteria and germs. Therefore, if you don’t wash your hands after cleaning up after your child, there is a chance you will also become infected. You should remember to clean your hands thoroughly with medicated soap or sanitizer.