It wasn’t until we had our second daughter that my husband finally experienced the unique sensation of being vomited on.
I had been settling our toddler into bed while he fed and burped the baby. I rushed into the nursery to find him pretty well covered in fresh throwup, asking, “What do I do? How did this happen?!”
I won’t lie and tell you that I felt bad for the guy… I felt equal parts amused and vindicated. I mean, even then, I’d been puked on more times than I could count. I told him it was part of his indoctrination into fatherhood and that he was lucky he’d escaped this particularly unpleasant baptism for so long.
With infants and babies, it can be difficult to tell the difference between spit-up, reflux, or a stomach virus. Add to that, the ever-present teething from 6 months on, and it can be downright confusing and hard to know what’s normal.
Teething can cause a slew of symptoms and make your baby miserable, but can symptoms of teething really lead to vomiting? Get the facts here.
Can Teething Cause Vomiting?
The short answer is no. The research shows that there is no evidence that teething can cause vomiting. So why is your baby vomiting? The most common reasons your little one is throwing up include:
Overfeeding or reflux
Especially with an infant, vomiting often happens because they’re still getting used to digesting milk. Plus, the lower esophageal sphincter (the flap between the stomach and esophagus) is still developing and doesn’t always stay closed. Their tiny tummy just can’t hold much and when it gets too full, the milk will simply come right back up.
Gastroenteritis is an infection in the gut and can cause vomiting and diarrhea that can last several days. Since stomach bugs can be extremely contagious, good handwashing is your best friend in keeping them at bay.
Vomiting could be caused by a food allergy. Additional symptoms include a raised, red, itchy rash and swelling of the face. Be sure to contact your pediatrician if you suspect a food allergy.
If your child is vomiting, it could mean they have an infection other than gastroenteritis. A urinary tract infection (UTI), pneumonia, ear infection, or meningitis could be an underlying cause of this symptom. When vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms of infection or a high fever, contact your healthcare provider.
Appendicitis is caused by a painful swelling of the appendix, which is connected to the large intestine, and can cause vomiting and severe stomach pain that just keeps getting worse. If you think that your child’s symptoms are related to appendicitis, contact your doctor immediately.
When children are mobile, they can get into all sorts of things. It’s essential that you childproof your home and keep anything that could be poisonous out of your child’s reach. If you suspect that your kiddo has swallowed something poisonous, contact poison control right away. You can call 1-800-222-1222 or visit their website.
While vomiting isn’t a symptom of teething, it’s important to know what the most common symptoms are and know how you can help your baby. Teething symptoms include:
- Excessive drooling
- More fussiness than usual
- Increased chewing, biting, or sucking (aka, putting everything in their mouths!)
- Redness, irritation, or rash due to extra drool on your baby’s chin or cheeks
- Red, swollen, or bulging gums
- Changes in or loss of appetite
- Teething blister or eruption cyst (buildup of fluid on the gums that usually goes away without treatment)
- Rubbing cheeks or the side of their face, tugging on ears
Symptoms of teething can begin anytime between 4 months and your child’s first birthday. Typically, the bottom front teeth are the first to emerge and usually make their debut around your child’s 6-month mark.
The canines (the pointy teeth) and the molars (the flat teeth in the back, along the upper and lower jaw) are usually the most painful teeth to cut and will probably be responsible for a lot of tears.
The pain of teething is at its worst when teeth are still under the gums, once new teeth break through, the pain subsides. By the time most children are 3, they have a full set of baby teeth and teething is officially over.
Why Your Baby Might Be Vomiting While Teething
Most milestones in your baby’s life don’t last longer than a month or two. Rolling over, sitting up on their own, crawling, and those first steps– babies work on them for a while, practice the new activity, eventually master it, and move on. Of course, each child is different and goes at their own pace, but most kids go from practicing to mastery in a few months.
Teething… not so much. Because a baby’s teeth from around 6 months to 3 years, that’s roughly 2 and a half years of sporadic teething. That’s a long time in the life of your kiddo… nearly their entire first three years! During those years, their immune system is still developing, leaving them vulnerable to all sorts of illnesses.
If your baby is vomiting while they’re teething, it’s probably because the two things are happening at the same time. Teething covers such a long period of time that it’s an easy scapegoat. But the truth is that vomiting isn’t caused by teething and there’s most likely something else going on.
When to Contact a Doctor
All babies will experience the discomfort of teething. And almost all babies vomit at some point or another… hopefully not on you. Knowing how to help and when to call the doctor is important.
Teething hurts, but there are things you can do to ease some of the typical symptoms. Massaging the gums with a clean finger, where the tooth is erupting can help ease the pain. A cold or frozen washcloth or teething ring can also soothe sore gums. Pain medication, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help relieve the ache from cutting teeth. If your child hasn’t gotten their first tooth by the time they’re 12 months old, it’s time to call a pediatric dentist.
When you have a kid who’s throwing up, it’s no fun for anyone. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do except try and keep them hydrated and comfortable. For babies, shorter, more frequent feedings and very small amounts of electrolyte solution (like Pedialyte). For young children, small sips of clear fluid or broth until they can keep down solid food.
Contact your pediatrician if you notice the following symptoms:
- Infant is projectile or very forcefully vomiting
- Signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, sunken soft spot, eyes or cheeks, decreased urination or wet diapers, crying but no tears
- Vomit that is greenish-yellow, looks like coffee grounds or contains blood
- A hard, bloated, or painful belly
- Extreme irritability, listlessness, disorientation, or sleepiness
- Vomiting lasts more than 12 hours for infants and more than 24 hours for children under 2