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Stopping Vomiting and Diarrhea

Expert Q&A


Updated May 20, 2014

Boy (2-4) sitting on toilet, low section, close-up of feet
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Q. What causes diarrhea and vomiting? How do we stop it - measures, medications, etc? Is it true that "flat" Coke helps aid diarrhea and "flat" 7 UP aids in vomiting? Winnona, Huntington Beach, CA

A. Infections, especially viral infections, are among the most common causes of diarrhea and vomiting. Bacteria and parasites can also cause diarrhea and vomiting, but the typical child with a stomach bug usually has a simple viral infection.

Besides infections, vomiting and diarrhea can be caused by food allergies, food intolerances, malabsorption syndromes, food poisoning, irritable bowel syndrome, among other less common conditions.

Stopping Vomiting and Diarrhea

In general, when it is caused by a virus, there isn't a lot that you can do to stop a child from having vomiting and diarrhea. Over the counter medications to stop diarrhea, such as Imodium or Kaopectate, aren't recommended for younger children. And medicines to stop vomiting, like Phenergan, aren't used much because of the common side effect of making a child so sleepy that he doesn't drink enough to keep from getting dehydrated.

Emetrol is sometimes used to help control the symptom of nausea, but if you look at the ingredients, you can see that it is basically sugar water.

Acidophilus and yogurt that contains acidophilus are recognized treatment for diarrhea, but the effects of treatment may not be that impressive. One research study reported just a half day decrease in the duration of diarrhea for children in the study.

Fluids for Vomiting and Diarrhea

If you are going to give a child with vomiting and diarrhea soda, it is a good idea to make sure that it has gone flat, otherwise the carbonation will likely make your child's stomach feel even worse.

Soda, whether it is Coke or 7 UP, is not a good fluid to give a child with vomiting and diarrhea though. An oral rehydration solution, like Enfalyte, Pedialyte, LiquiLyte, or Rehydralyte, are much better options, as they have the right mix of sugar and electrolytes to prevent and treat dehydration.

See our guide to Treatments for Vomiting and Diarrhea for more information.

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