When assessing nausea and vomiting in a child you need to follow these steps:
To obtain a full history you would question the child, if they are old enough to give a history, as well as the caregiver (nursing staff and parents) about:
Whether they are experiencing feelings of nausea or not.
Timing, frequency, consistency and volume of the vomiting.
The stool habits e.g. constipation or diarrhoea.
Any factors that may be contributing e.g. certain food or medications.
Any factors that may help reduce vomiting e.g. eating before taking medication.
Any neurological problems that may be contributing e.g. swallowing problems.
Any gastrointestinal problems that may be contributing e.g. gastro-oesophageal reflux.
Any pain or anxiety that may be contributing to the nausea.
Any movement or positioning that may trigger nausea and/or vomiting.
Any history of allergies.
It is important that you identify the possible underlying cause of vomiting with a thorough history and examination before treating. Below is a table of common symptoms and their possible causes.
Symptoms and signs
|Blood stained vomiting (haematemesis)||Oesophagitis, swallowed blood, peptic ulcer, oesophageal varices|
|Coffee ground vomitus||Upper gastrointestinal bleeding, stress ulceration, pre-terminal event, Disseminated Intravascular Coagulopathy (DIC)|
|Undigested milk/food||Gastric outlet obstruction|
|Projectile vomiting||Raised gastrointestinal obstruction|
|Abdominal distension, decreased bowel sounds||Ileus (a temporary lack of the normal muscle contractions of the intestines), electrolyte disturbances|
|Tender right upper quadrant, jaundice||Hepatitis|
|Guarding and rebound tenderness||Appendicitis, pancreatitis|
|Oliguria (low urine output), oedema||Renal failure|
|Chemotherapy, radiotherapy||Toxicity, radiation enteritis|
|Bulging fontanelles, blurred disc margins, hypertension, bradycardia||Raised intracranial pressure, hydrocephalus, space occupying lesion|
|Photophobia, meningism (neck stiffness)||Meningitis|
|Smell of ketones, coma||Diabetic ketoacidosis or other metabolic disorders|
|Associated headaches, blurred vision||Migraines|