Usually, a child vomiting at night is due to a short-term illness, such as a virus or food poisoning. In other cases, it may be a sign of an underlying illness or problem.
Various illnesses can cause a child to vomit at night. The most common causes are short-term viral infections, such as gastroenteritis.
This article examines the causes of children vomiting at night, other possible symptoms, treatments, and prevention. It also discusses when to contact a doctor and the typical outlook.
An underlying illness can cause vomiting at any time of day or night.
The following sections outline some illnesses that can cause vomiting, other symptoms a child may experience, and treatment.
Gastroenteritis or food poisoning
- frequent diarrhea
- frequent vomiting
- abdominal pain
- black, tarry stool
- signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth and infrequent urination
Symptoms of food poisoning can begin
Treatment involves helping a child stay hydrated by making sure they sip water or a rehydration solution. The condition will typically resolve on its own within
Learn more about gastroenteritis in children.
If a child has chronic acid reflux, called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a doctor may prescribe medication such as:
Learn more about GERD in children and adults.
Coughing or asthma
- a feeling of tightness in the chest
- shortness of breath
- asthma attacks
Treatment typically involves medication in inhaler or tablet form, which a doctor can prescribe.
Learn more about childhood asthma.
Food allergy or intolerance
- itchy, raised areas of skin called hives
- swelling in the face
- wheezing or coughing
- runny, itchy, or blocked nose
- abdominal pain
Read about nine common foods that cause allergies.
- severe abdominal pain that steadily worsens
- abdominal swelling
To treat appendicitis, a doctor will usually remove a child’s appendix as soon as possible.
A child with meningitis may also experience:
Treatment can involve hospitalization and includes breathing oxygen through a face mask, antibiotics, and intravenous fluids that healthcare professionals administer through a vein.
Learn more about meningitis in children.
Cyclic vomiting syndrome
Cyclic vomiting syndrome (CVS) is a rare disorder that causes bouts of vomiting for no apparent reason. A child with CVS may also experience:
- appetite loss
- pale skin
- abdominal pain
- dry heaving
- drooling or spitting
- extreme thirst
Read about ways to stop vomiting at home.
If a child vomits once during the night and seems okay otherwise, a caregiver can simply help them back to bed and remain watchful.
Anyone who experiences vomiting alongside symptoms of a severe condition, such as appendicitis or meningitis, needs to seek immediate emergency medical care.
A person needs to contact a doctor if a child:
- is vomiting repeatedly and cannot hold down fluids
- has been vomiting for longer than 1–2 days
- shows signs of dehydration
- has blood in their vomit, or the vomit is green
- is a baby and has vomited more than three times within 24 hours
- will not bottle or breastfeed
- has signs of infection, such as fever and irritability
A person needs to seek immediate emergency medical attention if a child is vomiting and:
- might have swallowed something poisonous
- has sudden and severe abdominal pain
- is unresponsive, less responsive, irritable, or floppy
- their vomit is yellow-green or green
- they have a stiff neck, headache, and rash
- they have sensitivity to bright lights
- there is blood in the vomit, or the vomit looks like coffee grounds
A child will usually stop vomiting as they begin to recover from illnesses, such as gastroenteritis, which usually go away on their own. Treatment typically involves sipping water or a rehydration solution to help prevent dehydration.
If a child vomits at night due to an underlying condition, such as asthma, acid reflux, allergies, or cyclic vomiting syndrome, treating the condition can help prevent vomiting at night.
Read about how to reduce the risk of getting sick.
Vomiting is a common symptom of various conditions and diseases. Food-borne illnesses take time to cause symptoms, such as vomiting, which can occur during the night.
Vomiting usually subsides once the body has cleared the harmful bacteria, and a child will recover within a few days.
If a child vomits at night and also experiences symptoms of a severe condition, a parent or caregiver should seek emergency medical care.