Why Do Children Throw Up for No Apparent Reason?

If your child throws up for no apparent reason, pay attention to these possible causes. Some of them are serious and require proper treatment as soon as possible.
Why Do Children Throw Up for No Apparent Reason?

Last update: 04 October, 2018

As mothers, our children’s health is our top priority. When they’re feeling under the weather, we do whatever’s possible to reverse the situation. One of the things that often causes us to worry is when our children throw up for no apparent reason. Before we even realize it, our children can quickly become dehydrated.

Whenever our children start to vomit, the first thing we do is check for the most obvious or common causes. However, if none of these causes seem to be to blame, and the vomiting continues, we begin to worry.

The first thing we ask ourselves when our children throw up is if they ate something that might have upset their stomach. But if our kids keep throwing up and there’s no explanation, we wonder what’s bringing on this unexplained symptom.

Why does vomiting occur?

It’s important to understand that vomiting refers to the rapid, violent expulsion from the stomach out of the oral cavity. However, if what you observe is a milder expulsion of stomach content to the mouth, then you’re dealing with regurgitation. Regurgitation is common in small babies.

In general, vomiting has to do with an illness and frequently involves additional symptoms (fever, abdominal pain, etc). However, if children throw up for no apparent reason, then you may be observing the presence of psychogenic vomiting

Why Do Children Throw Up for No Apparent Reason?

Psychogenic vomiting is a type of vomiting that is intensely related to psychological or emotional causes. This can be very common in children.

In cases of psychogenic vomiting, the symptoms fall into one of the following categories:

  • Intentional psychogenic vomiting: Children consciously provoke their own vomiting, as occurs with individuals who suffer from bulimia nervosa. In other words, it’s an episode of induced vomiting.
  • Unintentional psychogenic vomiting: Vomiting is brought on by nervousness, excessive anxiety or stress.

These are the most frequent cases in children, especially when they require attention. When psychogenic vomiting appears constantly, it can be very difficult for specialists to indicate treatment. Finding the cause behind the symptoms can be very difficult, especially when children are very young.

When children throw up for no reason: possible causes

1. Anxiety

If you have a child that tends to worry, or becomes easily frustrated, then your child may be anxious.

Children who experience anxiety have a hard time staying calm in stressful situations. They tend to present physical manifestations of their anxiety, such as episodes of vomiting.

2. Emotional changes

On the other hand, your child’s psychogenic vomiting may be the result of major changes in his or her life. These may include divorce, a fight, moving, loss of a loved on, etc. Vomiting is a way of getting out the emotions children are feeling but don’t know how to express.

“If your child is throwing up for no apparent reason, then you may be observing the presence of psychogenic vomiting.”

3. Anger

This is another demonstration of children’s emotions. It may be due to the frustration that children feel for not getting what they want.

Vomiting may then be a method used to manipulate. In other words, children learn that vomiting is an effective tool for getting their way.

A clear example is when children are upset because their parents won’t give them what they want. When crying doesn’t work, they become angry and cry even harder, which leads to vomiting.

When children throw up, they capture their parents’ attention. As as result, some children learn that throwing up is a way to get what they want.

Why Do Children Throw Up for No Apparent Reason?

What can parents do if their children present psychogenic vomiting?

The first thing you should do if your child is throwing up is to stay calm. Vomiting is common in children and we shouldn’t overreact. This may only make your child more anxious.

If your child throws up, you should first seek attention from a medical professional.

However, if your pediatrician can’t find any physical or organic cause, you should look for a child psychologist. This professional will evaluate your child and provide you with the best solution.

  • Desai PM, Mbachi C, Mathew M, Attar B, Mba B. Psychogenic Adipsia Presenting as Recurrent Functional Vomiting and Hypernatremia. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2020 May 1;120(5):359-361
  • Li BUK. Managing cyclic vomiting syndrome in children: beyond the guidelines. Eur J Pediatr. 2018 Oct;177(10):1435-1442