8yo throws up whenever he gets a common cold. Anything to be done?
December 8, 2013 3:51 PM   Subscribe

8yo throws up for 2-3 consecutive days when he first gets a common cold. You're not my doctor, but is this really a normal thing?

8yo throws up for 2-3 consecutive days when he first gets a common cold. It's happened enough times now that, when I or his younger brother have a sniffle/sneeze, we know he'll be sneezing within the week and throwing up for a few days following "sneeze day". He's otherwise healthy. We asked the Doc, and got a, "yeah, that happens to some kids" response. The throwing up seems independent of the snot production of the cold.

You're not my doctor, but is this really a normal thing? If so, any strategies you have found for someone suffering with this that have helped?
posted by elmonobonobo to Health & Fitness (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So I have a weak stomach and really bad allergies and I've thrown up (snot uggh) in the morning multiple times. It happens a lot more when I haven't eaten. So I would just make sure his stomach doesn't get too empty. It usually doesn't take much to keep the nausea at bay. For me the issue is really just my stomach being too full of mucous and nothing else. Sorry for painting that mental picture for everyone. Obviously I have no idea if this is what is going on with your kid, but in my experience, yes, excess nasal drip can make you nauseous enough to throw up.
posted by whoaali at 4:01 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am not a doctor - however, I'm someone who has a gag reflex that's actually strong enough to be triggered by post-nasal drip, to the point that sometimes trying to cough ends up with me retching. I wonder if maybe something like that is going on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:02 PM on December 8, 2013 [7 favorites]

Ancedotally, my husband had a hair-trigger gag reflex that was often triggered by the onset of a cold - well into college, even. It's still a popular topic of coversation/reminiscing in his family.

Is your kiddo vomiting so much that he's not getting adequate liquids/nutrition? That would definitely be a cause for concern.
posted by muddgirl at 4:24 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I vomit after coughing, part of it is the gag reflex like EmpressCallipygos mentions, the other part is that my Lower Esophageal Sphincter doesn't close properly, so a few stomach contractions from coughing means whatever's in it starts working its way back up my esophagus and continues doing so for a while. Does your son have acid reflux/heartburn as well? If so it could be related. Good luck, I feel his pain.
posted by HermitDog at 4:25 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I mean, is he vomiting so much in those 2-3 days that he's not holding down any food or water?
posted by muddgirl at 4:25 PM on December 8, 2013

Good point, HermitDog - I never made the connection but my husband also had coughing-triggered vomiting AND he has acid reflux.
posted by muddgirl at 4:26 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

My youngest was like this until she hit about middle school age. The post-nasal drip gagged her until she puked, with every single cold.
posted by headspace at 4:33 PM on December 8, 2013

Post-nasal drip = nausea, even without gagging. It might be enough to cause vomiting. So sorry he has to go through this.
posted by orange (sherbet) rabbit at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2013

How quickly does he bounce back after the vomiting? Does he stop vomiting once he's out of fluids to vomit, or just keep vomiting until the attack is over? Is he vomiting enough to get badly dehydrated?

Colds are one possible trigger for Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome -- see if that sounds familiar.

If you think it might be CVS and it's a major issue for him, it would be worth checking in with a specialist. (In the bad old days, the only treatment was a quiet, dark, room, Gatorade, and Benadryl, plus IV rehydration if it got bad enough. I've been told there are better treatments available today.)
posted by pie ninja at 4:55 PM on December 8, 2013 [2 favorites]

As a young child, this was me. Any kind of virus meant that vomiting was a big possibility. I was born with a condition that gave me a pretty ridiculous gag reflex. As a baby, my parents tell me that I repeatedly projectile vomited on a daily basis (sorry, parents). Since it wasn't a stomach disorder, but an oddity in how my throat formed, I was never treated for it.

Until about age 10 or 12, a virus that would give my sister the fever and the sniffles would have me laid up in bed and throwing up.

To this day, if I get sick with a severe enough cold, even if it's not the flu, my epiglottis and uvula will swell and my gag reflex gets horrendous.

So, your son might be dealing with a similar condition.

Plus, think back to when you were a kid. Viruses hit harder, longer, faster, and felt like the end of the world. Kids just have it rougher as far as that stuff goes, and your son may feel horrible and that may accentuate his nausea.

Also, if you aren't satisfied with how specific your doctor is being, then you should ask for more information and the doctor should spell things out in more detail, or do a clearer job of explaining to you why you shouldn't worry about this.

Many doctors, unfortunately, are averse to spelling things out too much for patients in the webmd era... but just because a patient is the type to stress about zebras, rather than horses, doesn't mean that a doctor should ever be vague with a patient. That's just sloppy. That said, it's ok for a doctor to say "I'm not sure," to you, too, because sometimes they really aren't. But, either way, your doctor should give you more explanation.
posted by Old Man McKay at 5:14 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ginger tea. I'm just sayin
posted by WhitenoisE at 5:19 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you asked him if he feels nauseated before he vomits or if it's more of a gag trigger reaction?

If it is the gag reflex, strategies which might help include minimizing the post-nasal-drip and general throat discomfort. Try antihistamines, cough drops, teaching him the joys of sipping hot tea (either herbal, or more likely for his age, hot lemonade), and warm showers.

Good luck!
posted by Ink-stained wretch at 5:31 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a weak stomach, and bad post-nasal drip has made me vomit and always gives me an upset stomach at a minimum. Seconding the advice to make sure his stomach stays relatively full - Saltine crackers and other mild starchy foods do the trick for me. My parents have a similar reaction during bad colds.

Vomiting from this for 2-3 days with every cold seems excessive, though, so I'd watch him very carefully. Keep him hydrated and his tummy full! Hopefully he outgrows it, this sounds unpleasant.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:14 PM on December 8, 2013

If there's an ear infection/clogging going on with the cold, the ears can cause nausea which can cause vomiting. Also post-nasal drop.

Datapoint: I'm 30 and spent all of Thursday throwing up due to ear and sinus infections. I'd want to puke more if I were 8 and that miserable.
posted by slateyness at 6:24 PM on December 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

*the ears can cause vertigo, which causes nausea.
posted by slateyness at 6:25 PM on December 8, 2013

Is his stomach upset or is post-nasal drip triggering his gag reflex? I sometimes throw up from snot in the back of my throat gagging me, but if I'm diligent about gargling with salt water when I'm sick I have less post-nasal snot and thus less gagging.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:11 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Post Nasal drip is probably the culprit. It can gather at the back of the throat which can trigger the gag reflex and if swallowed a lot (common with kids since a lot of them will sniff and swallow instead of blowing their nose or spitting excess mucus into the toilet) it can cause upset stomach. IANAD, I just know this because I have allergies and chronic sinusitis. I very often have problems with nausea and vomiting when I have a flare up. Things that have helped are avoiding dairy products while I'm sick, drinking a lot of water, and prescription nasal sprays like Fluticasone (you'd have to consult your child's pediatrician on that). Also try to get your kid to blow their nose or spit their excess mucus (pleasant I know) instead of sniffing and swallowing.
posted by katyggls at 7:30 PM on December 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Are you giving him zinc drops, anything with zinc? Many people do that at the first sign of a cold. But zinc hurts my stomach and makes me throw up, so I can't use it. Just a thought.
posted by tomboko at 7:47 PM on December 8, 2013

My kid does this. It has gotten better over the years - although that may be just because she can get herself to the toilet before the explosion - so i don't have to clean up the mucus-y puke, on the carpet, the lounge, the car when we're late for a flight (that was great to return to 4 days later!) and my personal repeated favourite, the supermarket checkout.
I found no way to stop it.
posted by jacanj at 3:59 AM on December 9, 2013

You say he's otherwise healthy, so this is unlikely, but my son had secondary adrenal insufficiency and colds/flus would often send him into a vomiting spiral. This is serious stuff, so if the other symptoms sound familiar, I would look for a specialist.
posted by qldaddy at 6:12 AM on December 9, 2013

I was like this as a child: colds reliably made me vomit. We never found out why. I mostly grew out of it, but a bad cold can still stick me with a day of feeling miserably sick, and throwing up once or twice an hour for twelve hours or so. It's not post-nasal drip triggering the gag reflex (though I do get that too), and it's not correlated with taking any medication; it seems to be just something my body does sometimes.

I always thought it was just me!

Things that can help a little: sucking ice cubes; making sure I have something in my stomach, even if it's just water (it's awful being sick when you've nothing to bring up); sucking mint imperials; eating something salty (crisps; Marmite on toast). Sleep. Not focusing my eyes on anything - so no reading, or watching television.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 2:33 PM on December 9, 2013

Follow up: Went to a different Doc. Stomach cramping due to mucus. Suggested drying him up with Benadryl at night and a decongestant in the morning.
posted by elmonobonobo at 3:40 PM on December 9, 2013

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