20 answers

Concerned Parent with a 4 Yr Old That Throws up Only at Night

My 4yr old son, recently got over a bad cough one month ago. However, now, he seems to be perfectly fine during the day, eating, playing, running around etc. However, for the past 3 weeks, about an hr after going to bed he wakes up and throws up. Then after 5 mins of that, he goes back to bed, and is fine again in the morning. I called the Doc and they said, give him Mucus medicine, prop his head on 2 pillows, and put a humidifier in the room (and i add Vicks Vapo steam). Well, the first night he was fine, didn't wake up. But then last night, he was back throwing up. Has anyone experience this, and what can I do about it. I'm at the point, where I want the Doc to run any and all tests, to see if there is something medically wrong, other than a common cold, that he is still getting over.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

First of all, i thank all you beautiful, concerned moms out there!!! this is a wonderful forum to post questions, and get great feedback. as far as my 4 yr old, throwing up at night. well, i am happy to say, he has not done that in about a month now. i believe there are many factors that went into this situation. first he had a bad cough, that i believe he was still getting over. therefore, the doc suggested mucinex to break up whatever was left in his chest. however, i only gave it to him at night. i also put a humidifier in his room. secondly, as a baby he did have bad acid reflux, and i believe he may still experience that to a certain level. therefore, now, i make sure he doesn't eat or drink anything at least an hr prior to going to bed. i also placed 2 pillows under his head, to prop his head up a little, to allow any drainage that occurs to flow downward, and not upward, or shall i say project-ward!!! and lastly, go to find out, that when he spent the night at grandpa's house, grandpa told him, that whenever he coughs, to go ahead and spit that out... i think, my little man, took that advice to the extreme. so, now, when he starts to cough, i always say "calm down", and that REALLY helps!!!

bless you all, and i hope everyone has a great easter!!!

Featured Answers

Is he coughing, and throwing up because he's gagging? If so, I have the same problem with my3 yr old daughter. I've started her on Zyrtec. She takes it every night, and that seems to really help. I would ask you pediatrician if that's a possibility. Mine says when they cough only at night, that's a sign of drainage, and an allergy problem. Good luck, I know how frustrating that is.

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You say he developed a cough about a month ago? Does he still have it? Are there any other symptoms such as a fever or rash? It's possible that he may just have acid reflux. On the other hand, as a child I used to get walking pneumonia every year. During the day I seemed fine, but as soon as I'd settle down for the night, the symptoms became much more prominent. They included coughing, a mild fever (101 or less), chills or sweats, and sometimes, I'd throw up. I'd wake from a dead sleep, throw up, and go back to sleep. I'd also occasionally get diarhea and/or develop a mild rash. It sounds awful but antibiotics cleared it up pretty quickly once the doctor figured out what I had.

I wish you and your child well and hope that he's better soon.

I would ask your dr about checking him for some kind of acid reflux problems!

Dear J.,
A lot of people are allergic to the dust mites in our beds. My son used to get congested & throw up because he was choking on the mucus. My oldest brother used to wake up choking about an hour after going to sleep. In both cases, our air purifiers have made the difference. I have a home business offering these air purifiers, since they've made such a difference for us, & so many others. I can bring one over for you to test for a few days to see if it makes a difference for him. It's sure a lot easier & cheaper than running medical tests, & if this is what he needs, it's what will make a difference. Maybe allergies are the reason the cold has hung on so long. Please see www.freshairliving.com/nolawood password is guest, to learn more, or just call me, ###-###-####. Blessings, N.

I would talk to your doctor about acid reflux. My 4 year old has the same problem. She will be fine during the day but at night cough so hard she throws up. Her reflux is especially bad when her allergies are acting up. The doctor put her on Prevacid and this fixed the problem.

I don't want to alarm you, but I saw this on Mystery Diagnosis. The one hour thing even. It started as once a night, and then twice, an hour apart, and then it got worse. Now, they tried everything, mucus meds, reflux meds, and finally a sleep study. IF this cont or gets worse, I would definitely get him into a 2 night sleep study. (Sometimes children will act perfectly fine when they have changed beds the first night.) This child was having nighttime seizures. The biggest key to this, is does he remember? If he doesn't remember it at all, I would suspect seizures, although at his young age, he may not anyway. Don't panic, but a sleep study, if you can afford it, doesn't hurt anybody. Just getting the doc to listen to you may be the tricky part if you need a referral from your ped. Check your insurance. Sometimes you can just call and get the appt yourself, although getting the referral is sometimes quicker.


I know this may sound strange and I don't want to worry you, but it may be worth checking out if the issue persists. On some medical mystery show a few weeks ago they were showing a little girl doing the same thing. She was perfectly fine and then about 1 hour after she went to bed she would throw up and then go right back to sleep and it was like nothing ever happened. If fact, in most cases, she didn't even know it was happening. The parents took her to multiple doctors over many months. Finally, they went to a neruo (sp?) doc who did a sleep test on her. Put a bunch of wires on her head a such while she slept. The little girl did the same thing, threw up about an hour after she went to bed and then went right back to sleep. They found out that she had Epilepsy and her throwing up was from seizures that she was having. The parents had no idea. She was totally fine otherwise. As I recall, it started when she was about 5. They interviewed the little girl and she said she is on medication now and has almost no issues anymore.

I don't want to scare you. It may be nothing except drainage from his cold. But if it will save you from months of worrying about what is going on then you at least have something to talk to your Dr. about.

Keep us updated.

You have gotten some great ideas so far. They are all valid concerns that you should definitely get checked out. The only other option I can think of is asthma. I did the same thing for 25 years until a new doctor figured out i had asthma. I would cough and cough so hard that i would throw up at night. However at 4 I don't think that they actually test for asthma they just treat it.

In any event I would take him to the dr. and if the first one doesn't think that there is anything wrong then go to another one. It's not normal and they need to figure out what is wrong.

Good luck!

Is he coughing, and throwing up because he's gagging? If so, I have the same problem with my3 yr old daughter. I've started her on Zyrtec. She takes it every night, and that seems to really help. I would ask you pediatrician if that's a possibility. Mine says when they cough only at night, that's a sign of drainage, and an allergy problem. Good luck, I know how frustrating that is.

I would say it could possibly be reflux due to a hiatal hernia(sp?). Something very similar was going on with my son and after a series of blood work and several tests that gave us no other answers we decided to look into reflux. My pediatrician wanted to just prescribe some medication but I like to use medication only when completely necessary and didn't want him to be taking something everyday for the rest of his life. Well after doing some research I found out that taking reflux medication will help the problem but actually make it worse in the long run. I spoke with a chiropractor and he told me it was probably a hiatal hernia. So I took my son in and after a few treatments his hiatal hernia is gone and we no longer have any throw up episodes at night and the gagging/coughing he had during the day without throw up are now gone too.

Something else I have read about it is brain tumors can cause throwing up at night so you might talk to your pediatrician about that as well. Not trying to scare you but help with all the options.

Best of luck to you and remember the doctors are not always right you need to trust your Mommy gut!

Has he been checked for any stomache issues? Maybe you should have someone look into a hyatil hernia (that is in the connecton from the esophogus to the stomache) Or an ulcerin that area. It could be a sinus issue also. Try no food at least one and hafhour before bed and especially milk prodcts and spicey things. chocolte is not good close to bedtime either. Water is fine but don' let him gulp-sips are better.

Sounds like acid reflux to me. It's pretty common for some reason.

It could be reflux. Or it could have something to do with his gal bladder. I would get a second opinion from another doctor. Good luck and God Bless.

Could be reflux or allergies as someone else mentioned. Throwing up at night can also be associated with night seizures.
Keep a detailed journal of food eaten that day or shortly before bedtime, other symptoms like cough, runny nose, how long after going to sleep until he vomits. A lot of times some kind of pattern will present itself and now you have a lot of detailed info to present to a Dr to find answers if it doesn't clear up.

You've gotten lots of great advice. Mine is slightly different. This past week, my 3 yr old daughter has coughed so hard that she has thrown up in the evenings or nighttime 4 of the last 5 days. She has had a sinus drainage and a cough for 3 weeks now and I thought it was just the cold/flu. I took her to doctor 2 days ago and they said that there is a surge of Pertussis/Whooping cough going around this year. The doctor thought my daughter's case was still something viral and would run it's course but told me to watch her for 48 hrs and if she still keeps coughing so hard that she throws up to call him b/c then he is pretty sure it is whooping cough (which is contagious). My daughter had this when she was little and her coughs sounded like a seal barking, but the doctor said that when they are older it doesnt sound that way and they often cough and cough till they throw up. Needless to say she threw up in the 24 hrs so I called back to Dr. and they got her on Zithromax (antibiotic). Her symptoms improved within the first 24 hrs after first dose of it. I watch other kids in my home and warned all my parents of what to watch for, so if your child is throwing up b/c they are coughing it is a possibility they might have this. Another thing, the Dr. said that even though they have shots of DPT(?) that covers pertussis, they get 5 different boosters of it (2mo, 4 mo, 6 mo, 18mo and before kindergarden) so they can still get it. Hope you figure out what is wrong with your lil one.

J., a couple of things come to mind but the biggest one I'm think of is possible acid reflux. Has he had anything to eat or drink within a few hours of his going to bed? It might be upsetting to his stomach and thus coming up.

I too suffer from allergies and when I was a kid if you put anything on my stomach before 10am it was a guarantee to come back up based on all the mucus in my stomach...so allergies may be another possiblity.

I would definitely get him into a Dr for further testing. In the meantime, if you still have a baby monitor around you may want to hook it up just so you can hear if he does start vomiting again. I know it's horribly scarry...there are times where we still suffer from that with a 4 & 6 yr old... Sometimes, things just happen and there is no explanation for it...but I have found with my own kids that a combination of processed foods, excessive running around all day (i.e. more than they normally do), and a lack of sleep/naps tends to bring this to the surface the quickest for us...after they vomit, they are fine and go back to bed w/o a problem. Keep us posted with what you find out.

When my son was 2-3 he had that problem. Turns out his tummy didn't like juices (i.e.orange juice) before he went to bed. It was kinda a version of reflux. We just watched what he ate and drank before he went to bed and he was fine. Hope this helps!

I saw a Mystery Diagnosis show where a child did that for something like two years before they discovered she was having minor epileptic seizures. I don't remember all the details, but I'm sure you could look it up. She went on seizure medication and has been fine since. I think they have actually started weaning her off the medication. She's 8 or 9 now.

Does your son couch before he throws up or shortly before? My son throws up if he catches a cough. What a mess! He must have the most sensative gag reflex known to man, seriously. If he has a cough, I know there will be puke that night. Perhaps since your son has been sick his reflex is a little senstative right now?

Does he cough until he throws up? Because my daughter has done that, shes fine during the day, but once shes laying for awhile she gets stuffed up again and will cough until she gags. If thats the case, I wouldnt worry, some kids take up to 3 weeks to be completey over a cold. The coughing at night is usually the last to go.
If hes not coughing and just throws up, I would wait, maybe a week, if it keeps up and would def take him back and figure it out.

My 3 year old recently had the same thing happen. I noticed that in her (yuck! throw up) their was a lot of mucus so I think at night it was draining into her stomach and gagging her which would make it come up. She ended up having chronic bronchitis. Also, if kids have an ear infection or mucus settles in their ear, it can cause nausea and vomiting too. Good Luck but I don't think you have to worry too much. It will probably pass.

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