The most common cause of vomiting in both adults and children is gastroenteritis, which is commonly known as 'gastro' or tummy bug. Your child may also have diarrhoea (runny poo) and a fever (high temperature).
Other causes include:
Food allergy: This starts within minutes or hours of eating a certain food. Can come with hives (urticaria). If your child is having trouble breathing or has swelling of the mouth or tongue call 111 for an ambulance.
Poisoning: If you think your child has swallowed a poison, follow these steps:
- If they are awake, call the New Zealand National Poisons Centre(external link) on 0800 POISON (0800 764 766).
- If they are sleepy or unconscious, lie them on their side and dial 111 for an ambulance.
- Do NOT try to make your child vomit or give them food or liquid until you have been given advice.
Reflux: Bringing up milk after a feed is sometimes mistaken for vomiting. The main difference is that vomiting uses effort (you will see your child retch and use their neck, chest and tummy muscles) while reflux or 'spilling' is effortless (the milk will just come out of their mouth). For babies less than 1 year old, spilling is a normal process that helps to relieve an uncomfortably full stomach. Read more about reflux. (external link)
Motion sickness: Caused by movement when travelling.
Overeating: This will stop after 1 or 2 vomits.
Being very worried or anxious: This is more common in older children. Your child will usually vomit once only. The situation the vomiting happens in should be the clue.
Infection: Ear infections, urine infections, flu, COVID-19 and other infections can cause vomiting. Children are more likely to vomit with infections than adults.
Meningitis: This is a potentially serious brain infection. See your healthcare provider straight away if your baby is vomiting, running a fever, and irritable, or if your older child is vomiting and complains of a stiff neck or seems dizzy and confused. Read more about meningitis.(external link)
Other illnesses: Illnesses such as migraine, diabetes, bowel obstruction and appendicitis can cause vomiting. Your child would have other symptoms such as pain or not eating which would let you know to make an appointment with your healthcare provider.