22 answers

Nocturnal Vomiting in Children

My 4 year old son suffers from periodic nocturnal vomiting, which simply means that after he is asleep for 4-5 hours, he awakes and becomes violently ill. He will continue to throw up throughout the night, but wake up famished and feeling okay, ready to play all day. He went through a period of 3 months of this vomiting several times a week when he was 2; none of the docs we saw at that time could figure out the problem. MRIs and other tests showed nothing. And then, it went away. Well, here we are two years later and it has started again. I can find very little online about this, but was wondering if anyone else out there has experienced this with their child?

What can I do next?

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Hi. You didn't mention this, but if he is coughing at all, it may be asthma. My son does the same thing, but he coughs first. You might want to see an allergist. Good luck.

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my sister, now 27, threw up all the time as a kid...dont know if docs ever figured out why, but I remember hearing something about how when lying down, her uvula or tonsils or something would trigger the gag reflex and cause her to vomit. She was always fine during the day, it was not illness related, and she apparently outgrew it. Try letting him sleep elevated, or a variety of sleeping positions, and think about anything in his sleeping environment that might have changed to trigger the gag reflex again. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

A neurological problem when he gets into REM sleep?

Hi S.,

My twin son was waking up with puke on his sheets for a few weeks nearly every night and the drs all thought it was the stomach bug. I kinda came to the conclusion it was him choking on his own phlegm at night and just vomiting everything up. I think he had post nasal drip. I'm not sure if this helps but good luck! N.

I have the exact same situation. The doc has told me the same thing. I'm getting scared now that I have seen your post. This has to have a discription. I wish doctors know everything about the human body. If you hear anything different call me. ###-###-####. That goes for anyone who can diagnose my daughter.

Hi S.,
I'll bet this is scary for you. I can't imagine. I have no real concrete advice for you, but, as a mom, if YOU feel you need to see more docs, tests, etc, then you should do it. Go with your gut feeling on that. The idea of elevating his top half seems to make sense. You can fold up a blanket/quilt and put it under the top half of his mattress- or you can put blocks under the top legs of the bed. Good luck to you! God Bless. D.

Go to discoveryhealth.com now!!! This is serious, and could be fatal, if it is the same disease as the child on a t.v. show called mystery diagnosis. The disease is called epilepsy, and this type of seizure is very rare, so almost no doctors think to look for it. What they did is do an EEG at night wile your child is sleeping. They need to get the throwing up on the EEG, so a sleep study is normal for this. The girl on the show was diagnoses with epilepsy two days afterward. Yes, some people with this form of epilepsy only do this at night in there sleep, and is the rarest type of seizures there is, which is the throwing up only at night time in the sleep. Mostly the vomiting starts as the child is asleep and sometimes they don't remember it all. Please if you get this in a timely manner, as I have no idea when you posted your question, seek professional help, if your PCP will not listen to you. This is very important that you see a doctor very soon and have them check for this problem, it will get worse as time goes on, if no help is found! Please up date this and let me know if you receive this, if he spends the night with someone who doesn't know how to deal with this happening then it could prove to be fatal for him.

My daughter is almost five now but when she was turning three she started with similar symptoms. She was diagnosed with abdominal migraines which just means the migraine causes vomitting. I had started with them at the same age. The doctor told me to give her motrin when she started with them and it did help. She tends to get them first thing in the morning or at night. We started to notice her eyes get red all around the rims when one is starting. Hope you find out what it is soon. Good luck.

A little about me:

I'm a SAHM of a 4 1/2 year old girl and 3 year old boy.


Try going on the Discovery Health Channel Site. I watch that channel alot and one episode of Mystery Diagnosis or Diagnosis X they had a little girl on there doing the exact same thing as your son. (these are real shows). I believe they did a sleep study because CTs and MRIs didn't show anything. It ended up being something in her brain that caused the throwing up, that they only could see during an episode of the throwing up. It is treatable. I dont know if this will help but do some research on sleep studies.

My daughter did much the same thing for almost 9 months. We would find vomit in her bed sometimes twice a week. We ended up doing bloodwork periodically and an ultrasound to finding out the cause. It may be something to ask your ped or visit a GI doc, although U may have already done this. My little one is now on supplements that are helping. I kept a chart as to frequency, amount and color...yes, they will want to know these things. All the best to U and your little man.

I have a couple of questions... Does your son sound congested throughout the night? Did it only happen for a couple of months at a time, say April through beginning of June or August through beginning of October?

Here is why I ask the questions and my thoughts... I am allergic to Dust, Grass and Trees (both late and early trees, this refers to when they give off their pollen). The months I mentioned coincide with the periods when the pollens are highest and when we switch on our air conditioning or heating depending on which months you refer to. When my allergies act up, I get congested at night. But it is a thick congestion which can cause a gag reflex. Sometimes, you can feel it but not hear it. My kids have gone through this a little here and there but nothing as intense as your sons vomiting. When you are lying flat or on a thin pillow, the congestion will just sit there and cause gagging and then vomiting. Also, swallowing the congestion can cause stomache upset. It often leads to vomiting in my kids when they have colds or other congestion issues.

Since it won't hurt and might help, I would suggest you try a few of these suggestions. Elevate his mattress some but putting a board or some phone books under the top part where his head lies. Use a humidifier in his room at night. Try a little Vapor rub. If these seem to help a little but he is still having a little bit of a problem, you could try some children's Benadryl, Claritin or Zyrtec.

It might be something completely different but like I said, elevating the mattress, running a humidifier and vapor rub won't hurt him so it is worth trying.

Good luck. I hope this helps.

I watched the same Discovery Channel Mystery Diagnosis show and the little girl was eventually diagnosed with a form of epilepsy. Her symptoms are similar to your sons. However, I don't know if she actually woke up when she threw up. The doctors finally were able to diagnose her during the sleep study by examining her brain waves when she began throwing up. She was much better after she was treated for epilepsy. Good Luck!M.

A little about me. I am a stay at home mom of 4 children ages 10, 9, 7,(all boys) and 4 yr old girl.

Hi. You didn't mention this, but if he is coughing at all, it may be asthma. My son does the same thing, but he coughs first. You might want to see an allergist. Good luck.

Wow, glad to read this post, but not glad your son is having this issue. My 2 1/2 year old grandson has the same problem. He had similar problems as an infant, but the doctor said he just needed a different formula. The problem lasted until he was about 8 months old, then seemed to subside. Then about 4 months ago, it started up again. He will wake up from a dead sleep and just start hurling. It is usually only 1 or 2 episodes, and happens about 3-4 nights a week. Never vomits during the day, only at night. And once the episode is over, he is back to his usual self. He eats very little as it is, and it is not uncommon for there to be 2-4 hours between the time he eats and the time he vomits. It's very scary for him, and very frustrating for us. He does flail his arms about during most of the episodes, so we wondered if he was having mild seizures. Because of his age, the doctor is really trying to side step any tests we request. Has not even done blood work. And even taking him to the ER at Children's Hospital resulted in a virus diagnosis, even though we explained it had been happening for more than 6 weeks.

My daughter has been doing the same thing for about 5 years. The Drs. do not seem concerned about it, they just tell me to keep her head elevated, which I tried and it did not work. She vomits during sleep sometimes several times a week. I am very concerned about this especially because she has other odd symptoms during the day, but not sure if they are related. But, the doctors have given me no answers!!

my daughter had the same thing. they even tested her for seizures! it turns out she has severe reflux. we had to cut a few things out of her diet (dairy and pork), plus she is on prevacid, and it's been almost six months now vomit free!!

My friend told me that she was watching a program on television about this same topic. After a period of time, they finally took their child in for a sleep study. Turns out this was a specific type of seizure the child was experiencing. After they diagosed the child and started the seizure medication, all is well. The sleep study sounds like it can't hurt....

My daughter, when she was 12 months or younger started vomiting at night on a periodic basis, but the vomiting usually lasted two to five nights. We always thought she caught a stomach bug (she was premature and a twin) until she was at the age where she could tell us she had pain in her head. She was having migraines, but only at night. We had an MRI and other studies, but nothing conclusive, except for that she has migraines that seem to be triggered by emotional stress/lack of sleep/schedule change. The vomiting, we found, only occurs when she is lying down. She would have the pain, vomit and then go back to sleep only to wake up again to vomit violently. Now when the pain starts or she can tell us she thinks she is going to have a headache at night, we have her sit up to sleep (we do this with her). It isn't comfortable, but she does not vomit and it seems to help the pain. Her doctor thinks it has something to do with the horizontal positioning of the body and brain. It is getting much better now that she is 8 years old and she rarely has this issue any more. Hope this helps. Good luck!

It was on Diagnosis X, I believe and it is a form of epilepsy. Ask to see a neurologist. Maybe he can have a sleep study done so they can be sure. Don't let it go as if it's nothing and see a different doctor if yours won't help you. You know there is something wrong and he needs to be diagnosed. Take charge of his health care and be his voice and go to doctors willing to look outside of the box.

Best of luck.
L. S

I two have gone threw that with my son and At first it started around the hoildays. We had him in the er a couple of times due to dhygratoin. We where seeing a doc. That wanted to put him on migrane medciane and Thinking that it was due from that. We even had at one point that he looked yellow. Which usaly means proublems with the liver. Still have no idea what the proublem was. My son has stoppped for know.

Doc. have an idea what it might be. But they don;t have a cause for it yet.

My stepson had what they call Abdominal migraines. He would get horrible stomach aches out of nowhere and vomit. Then the next day would be fine. He had to go to a lot of doctors before they figured out what this was. He has done this since he was a baby. From what we have learned, this conditions is worse during times of stress. His mother used to live in Virginia and would bring him to Pennsylvania to visit us about once a month. He would usually have a "flare up" while he was here, or as soon as he returned to Virginia. We figured out that the trip back and forth was stressing him out and now they have moved back to Pennsylvania. He has not had them for awhile now. Maybe take him to counseling to see if stress is causing the problem.

Hi S. ....

My son would feel fine all day then would go to bed and start coughing so much so that he would throw up 3, 4, sometimes 5 times a night. This went on for a long time because I would give him cough medicine trying to stop the cough and it would never stop it. When I talked to his doctor he gave me a sample of Advair to try. After 24 hours he's MUCH better and no longer sleeps with a "belly-ache bowl". He actually had Night Asthma. I had never heard of that but it works and he's much better!

I hope you find a solution. I know how frustrating this can be. Good luck!

- J.

Hi S.. My 5 year old son also has episodes of night vomiting as well. This only happens about once every month or two, but I am worried just the same. It seems to only happen when he has a slight cough, the cough will then trigger the vomiting. Im am very concerned hearing the stories that it may be a form of epilepsy. I will absolutely have to take him to the doctor if this continues.

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