, Volume 80, Issue 4, pp 318-325
Date: 23 Jan 2013

Management of a Child with Vomiting

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Abstract

Vomiting is a protective reflex that results in forceful ejection of stomach contents up to and out of the mouth. It is a common complaint and may be the presenting symptom of several life-threatening conditions. It can be caused by a variety of organic and nonorganic disorders; gastrointestinal (GI) or outside of GI. Acute gastritis and gastroenteritis (AGE) are the leading cause of acute vomiting in children. Important life threatening causes in infancy include congenital intestinal obstruction, atresia, malrotation with volvulus, necrotizing enterocolitis, pyloric stenosis, intussusception, shaken baby syndrome, hydrocephalus, inborn errors of metabolism, congenital adrenal hypoplasia, obstructive uropathy, sepsis, meningitis and encephalitis, and severe gastroenteritis, and in older children appendicitis, intracranial mass lesion, diabetic ketoacidosis, Reye’s syndrome, toxic ingestions, uremia, and meningitis. Initial evaluation is directed at assessment of airway, breathing and circulation, assessment of hydration status and red flag signs (bilious or bloody vomiting, altered sensorium, toxic/septic/apprehensive look, inconsolable cry or excessive irritability, severe dehydration, concern for symptomatic hypoglycemia, severe wasting, Bent-over posture). The history and physical examination guides the approach in an individual patient. The diverse nature of causes of vomiting makes a “routine” laboratory or radiologic screen impossible. Investigations (Serum electrolytes and blood gases,renal and liver functions and radiological studies) are required in any child with dehydration or red flag signs, to diagnose surgical causes. Management priorities include treatment of dehydration, stoppage of oral fluids/feeds and decompression of the stomach with nasogastric tube in patients with bilious vomiting. Antiemetic ondansetron(0.2 mg/kg oral; parenteral 0.15 mg/kg; maximum 4 mg) is indicated in children unable to take orally due to persistent vomiting, post-operative vomiting, chemotherapy induced vomiting, cyclic vomiting syndrome and acute mountain sickness.