26 answers

Question About Gagging and Stomach Problems for a 4 Year Old

Hi! I have a 4 1/2 year-old, and she seems to be having a continuous problem with gagging on some foods and will cause herself to throw-up. Foods like apples, raisens, chips, anything really. She throws-up when she is worked up and upset too, but mostly when she is eating. If she eats something she doesn't like, she throws up. She is always choking when she drinks something, and she can not laugh without getting the hiccups. I don't know if the hiccup thing is related or not, but I thought I would throw it out there. Does anyone have any idea if this is a condition that I need to pursue and what kind of doctor would you use? My pediatrician is not worried, but I don't think it is normal that I have to carry an airline barf bag around - is it? At first I thought it was manipulative, but I don't think so anymore since it happens even when she choses the food. (she is very smart) Any ideas?

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I have a 9yr old and at age 2 She had some of the same problems and I noticed her tonsils were very large and because of a law they could not take them out at that age then one day on are way home from lawrence my daugter was eating nachos in the back seat of the car and began choking and I had to slam on the brakes and get her out of the back seat and help her from choking to death. She was 7yrs old and I was so upset called her dr's and demanded to see them the next week we saw dr seagabret in lawreance and he took one look in her mouth and said her tonsils were way to big and were touching each other and he took them out with in a couple weeks. he is a very good ENT and I would sugest you to see him ASAP.

I would talk to a gastroentraolist(sp?) basically a stomach specialist. They might be able to give you more insight.

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Hello,No it isn't normal for a child to continous gag on food's she may have some swallowing issues or upper GI,if your insurance doesn't need a referral to see a specialist i'd take her in and get this resolved and if it is that your daughter is making herself do it then no worries but it is alamaring to have to go through this with her.Good Luck and try to get in too see a new doctor.

My son (3 1/2 yo) does this too, and my pediatrician says he has a mild tactile sensitivity that he will grow out of. In the meantime, we just have him take very small bites and praise him a lot when he gets food down without gagging. Also, he drinks water with his meal and that helps to wash down the food quickly.

I will be watching to see what other advice you get. I know mine wasn't very helpful, but not many people seem to know how to deal with this. Good luck!

I have a 9yr old and at age 2 She had some of the same problems and I noticed her tonsils were very large and because of a law they could not take them out at that age then one day on are way home from lawrence my daugter was eating nachos in the back seat of the car and began choking and I had to slam on the brakes and get her out of the back seat and help her from choking to death. She was 7yrs old and I was so upset called her dr's and demanded to see them the next week we saw dr seagabret in lawreance and he took one look in her mouth and said her tonsils were way to big and were touching each other and he took them out with in a couple weeks. he is a very good ENT and I would sugest you to see him ASAP.


She could have sensory issues. Some kids just can't handle certain textures. There could be something not working properly in her throat or swallow reflex, etc. You might start by talking to a speech therapist. It wouldn't hurt to get her checked. Good Luck!

I don't know if this will help but my son when he was 4-5 years old had a gag reflex that he would throw up all the time. He had enlarged tonsils which the pediatrician wasn't concerned about because he was never sick. When we consulted with an ENT because of ear fluid problems, the ENT said the tonsils needed to come out. Once the enlarged tonsils were removed, he never threw up again except when he got truly sick. We had a completely different child when it came to meals after removal of his tonsils. Incidentally, my son was is very bright too and definitely a challenge. We too thought he was just being stubborn but that wasn't the case. Good luck!

You are right. That is not the norm to carry a barf bag around. If it were me, I would take her to the Dr. just to be on the safe side. Could be nothing, but could be something that they can help.

I don't know if this will help or not but I thought of it when I read your question. A neighbor of mine just told me that her daughter was born with adult sized tonsils. They found this out when they tried to feed her table food. They had to go in and make a larger pathway in her throat since the tonsils wouldn't let anything by. If your daughter has always had this problem it could be caused by enlarged tonsils. I would take her to an ear nose and throat doctor and have them take a look. Good luck!

My daughter experience much of the same problem. Our started about 3 yrs of age. We saw Dr. Daniels a GI specialist at Children's Mercy and he has worked miracles. I don't carry around ziplocs anymore! We have occasional "spitting" as my daughter reffers to it, but we are soooooo much better. Best of luck to U!

Hi there,

I have a friend whose daughter is experiencing that too. I don't mean to scare you, but they are finding out she is allergic to a lot of things. It seems to cause her to throw up all the time too. I will say that i have also heard that sometimes they have a small throat, if that is what you would call it. It can cause them to choke a little easier. Best of luck, i can only imagine how inconvenient that is.

I agree that is not normal. Sounds like she could have some kind of stomach problem. My mom had a peptic ulcer and it made her gag and throw up. You should take her to a gastroenterologist (they special. Good luck.

My cousin had this issue. Her esophagus was too small. The docs stretched her esophagus and encouraged lots of water...(said the hydration helps it be more elastic.) My aunt dealt with this until she was 9 (when a doc finally found her issue).

We experienced swallowing and choking problems with our son from birth to 6 yrs old. St. Johns has a swallowing and sucking expert now, ask your peds for a referral. He had problems with textures and worked with a occupational therapist and a speech therapist to desensitize his mouth and gag reflex. He still has trouble with things like oatmeal or tapioca, but is much better. Good luck.
T. V.

I would agree with the retired speech therapist that responded. I am an occupational therapist and work with feeding disorders, sensory disorders and various dx. She could definitely be aspirating, where food and liquids go into her lungs. Does she get frequent respiratory infections or colds? The coughing or choking after drinking is a concern and possible sign of aspiration related to a swallow disorder. Many children can have sensory issues with feeding, as certain textures of food or certain temps of food can cause hyper gag reflex, and these children will gag and choke on certain types of foods. Try looking up symptoms of aspiration and sensory integration disorder: oral defensiveness, also look into symptoms of GERD,etc. There is a lot of info about this, so if you would like for me to send you any information, I would be happy to. I would definitely recommend a speech or OT eval through Children's Mercy Hospital in the feeding clinic/occupational therapy..they may want to do a video swallow test..they will need a doctor's order first, so if your doctor doesn't agree or think there is a problem, then I would recommend a follow-up with a pediatrican at Children's Mercy or similar hospital. Good luck to you and don't hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. Again, without seeing her or knowing more about her symptoms, it is difficult to know what is truly going on. Take care!

My son was like this until he was 6. Like everyone else, my pediatrician told me it was behavioral. Then, we went to a pediatric nutritionalist. She suggested the idea of reflux disease. We went to a GI dr. He did a swallow test-which showed nothing. Then, did a endoscopy (where they put him to sleep and put a tube down his throat). He had several reflux disease. His throat was swollen all the way down and had erosions along the way. We put him on a heavy dose of meds and within 3 weeks he was so much better. I would definately follow up with a GI dr. and/or a nutrionalist.

I just got this in an e-mail from Children's Hospital (newsletter that I receive). It talks about GERD and some of the symptoms-- when it mentioned older kids I thought of the MamaSource e-mail I'd gotten earlier with your request in it! It's worth looking into-- YOU know your child better than your pediatrician!

I am new to this site so I hope I do this correctly.
I don't want to alarm you but I do believe your pediatrician is possibly incorrect on this one. I am a retired speech-language pathologist and you are describing symptoms of a swallowing disorder and you should have your daughter properly evaluate by a SLP to determine if she has problems with her swallowing mechanism. It is a complex system involving much more than the basic reflex and should be investigated. Choking on fluids everytime she drinks indicates the fluids are going down the wrong way, this can lead to pneumonia if the cough reflex is not able to clear the liquids adequately. Best of luck getting a referral for further evaluation.

I would talk to a gastroentraolist(sp?) basically a stomach specialist. They might be able to give you more insight.

Your pediatrician isn't concerned? Is he/she the one who has to carry the barf bags around? I would either change peditricians or press the fact that while they may not be concerned you certainly are. If you're on an HMO where you need a referral to see a specialist, then put the pressure on. If not, then go see a specialist yourself. The hard part is to determine if you should see a GI specialist or an ENT (Ear, Nose, Throat.) I'd start with the GI. Doctors at Children's Mercy would be your best bet.

one of my daughters has what the doctor calls sensitive gag reflexes. when she was little i had to try very hard to trick her into taking medicine. she would have herself convinced that it was going to make her sick so i would have to mix it with juice so she wouldn't know she was getting it. your daughter surely isn't doing this on purpose. i mean, would you want to puke all over yourself just to make a point? if my daughter ate something she didn't like, just because i wanted her to, she would throw up everytime. the good news is, she has outgrown it for the most part. she still can't eat something she doesn't like b/c she will throw up but she is 13 now so she knows how to deal with it on her own. good luck.

My son has done this since he started eating solid foods. He is 14 months right now and we have to watch him constantly because of the gag reflex. I am not much help either, so I am awaiting your answers as well!

Could be a symptom of reflux (GERD) but sounds more like she just has sensitive gag reflex.
She may or may not grow out of it.
If you trust your pedi, and are still concerned, ask for a referal. S/he would know where to send you and have a good recommendation. Most docs may not be concerned about something, but when a mom says, hey I really want to look into this further, will send you to a specialist.
Mom's have a 6th sense, and a good pedi will know and trust this themself.

I have known several cases of children who had a very strong
gag-reflex. This seems to be more than that. She could have
some food allergies. Over the years I've found that when there
is a"real"problem it is better to seek help from a specialist
even tho it sometime costs a little more. Especially if you
feel uneasy about this....go by that God-given "motherly
instinct" and get another doctor's opinion. It isn't pleasant
for your daughter so doubt that she is being manipulative.
Put the sign on your fridge, "This too shall pass" and hang
in there. Moms have to be resilient. The kids I knew outgrew their problem. Grandma of 30....Sunny G-ma

My daughter threw up regularly, daily, (sometimes more) until she was about 3.5 years old. I know the helpless feeling of having to carry around barf bags, gloves, towels, and clean clothes everywhere we went. Her car seat cover shredded in the washing machine because it was washed so much.

She was VERY picky, gagged on certain textures, and constantly had hiccups. From the age of 14 months to 3 years, she did not gain one single pound, she actually lost a few. The pediatrician she saw at the time was not concerned. I finally changed pediatricians, to see the one I saw as a child. The new pediatrician ordered an upper G.I. and a swallow study (that was NOT fun). He diagnosed her with reflux and delayed gastric emptying and put her on medications. The medications helped, but did not stop the vomiting. He was concerned about her lack of weight gain, so he had us give her 3 bottles of pediasure a day since getting her to eat was a battle. Sometimes she kept it down, sometimes not.

We went to a speech pathologist, but my daughter would NOT cooperate under any circumstances. She still vomits occasionally, and it isn't like a normal kid, it is projectile, like a baby. Its usually when she is sick, carsick, or upset. She has gradually put on weight, and at almost 5, she weighs 36lbs. Getting her to eat is still a battle sometimes, but there are foods I can count on her eating. So, even though they tell you not to be, I am a short-order cook for her.

It was a very hard time for me as a mom. I felt so helpless. My advice to you is to persist, get a new pediatrician if your current one won't listen. You know something is wrong, don't rest until you get help for your daughter. Someone will listen to you eventually. It is hard enough to see your child sick, and it hurts even more when you feel like you can't do anything to help them. Your daughter needs to have tests run (such as an upper G.I.), she needs to be checked for food allergies (they can cause reflux), and she needs to be evaluated for a possible swallowing disorder (like dysphagia). Good luck to you!

I hope you find the help your daughter needs. (((Hugs!)))

I would be concerned too. I'm surprised your pediatrician ins't worried. Have you thought about seeing another pediatrician? We love ours. My eldest is 6, and she complains of an upset tummy often. Her doctor seems pretty thorough to me. She wanted to get stool samples to make sure all is okay. I haven't done it yet (been too busy), but I was glad she didn't dismiss my daughter's complaints.

I would seek another docs opinion; 4 yrs old seems a bit old to be throwing up so easily. My chilren did as babies, but they out grew that (thankfully).

I would either take her to an ENT, ears nose & throat, doctor or and gastroenterologist. She could be having a problem with reflux disease or even something like piloric stenosis. She could also have food allergies, that can make a child throw up. The gagging reflex sounds more like one of the first mentioned.
Personally, I would definately take her to a specialist.

HI L.,

On Feb 5, one of the mom's on Mamasouce talked about a DR. Daniel at Children's Mercy in KC. We have seen Dr Daniel in Wichita before. He comes once a month to the CF Clinic here. Both of my girls have CF and while they do not have GI issues at the present, I know several CF kids that do.
He is a wonderful DR and has worked miracles on kids.
I wouldn't just chalk up your baby's gagging to a dislike for certain foods or something that will go away with age. I would definitely get this checked out. It very well may be a pretty severe allergy to foods, Celiac disease, or Reflux, all of which are treatable.
Don't take NO for an answer if you feel in your gut that something is not right with your child. Don't worry if you make someone 'mad' by expressing how you feel. Your Child cannot speak and therefor you must.
Hope this helps,

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