On Sunday morning, at about 2:12am (yes, I looked at the clock), I started hearing strange sounds emanating from my toddler. It almost sounded like a kettle of water was starting to boil over in her mouth. Then, out of nowhere, she began to upchuck all the contents of her stomach onto our bedsheets. Panicked, I turned on the lights and realized she was actually trying to swallow some of her own vomit – I guess my poor baby did not know that she was supposed to let it all out. There began a 24-hour period of mopping her up, cleaning chunks of food out of our clothes, carpet, and bedding, doing laundry, trying to keep her hydrated, and rinse and repeat. Five loads of laundry later, we still didn’t know what hit her (but my husband and I felt like a Mack truck had hit us, repeatedly).
Her symptoms included nothing other than a runny nose. No fever, no diarrhea, nothing else that would indicate a bacterial or viral infection. My thoughts ran to food poisoning, but I had eaten the same things as I had fed her the previous day, and I was completely unaffected. It was baffling and mystifying. We spent the morning trying to figure out what she could tolerate. Yogurt snacks? Nope, that came back up rapidly. Toast? Nope, that, too, came out in a copious flow. Milk? No way, Jose – that caused the largest stream of vomit yet. And no, she could not even tolerate breastmilk. In the end, my mother-in-law made her a porridge of rice gruel, and I concocted my own homemade version of Pedialyte, since I had nothing else on hand. These she kept down for the rest of the day and into the night, with her last vomiting session (and our 5th load of laundry) occurring at about 6:58pm – I only know that because my husband and I were heading out to a 7:10 movie. Needless to say, we did not end up going.
One lesson about children who are vomiting or experiencing diarrhea was seared into my brain from my college days. I was interested in Third World countries’ economic development and took many classes on this topic, and the class that left the deepest mark on me was actually about population growth in Asia and Africa, taught by Professor William Arthur. One day, he told us that the biggest killer of children in developing countries was – believe it or not – nothing other than dehydration from prolonged diarrhea. This was because their parents thought that the child was simply “overtaken by evil spirits,” and why give them anything to eat or drink when they could not keep anything down anyway? Professor Arthur said that in these situations, the best thing you can do is give the child some Gatorade (which contains replenishing electrolytes) – it could very well save their lives. I would remember this fact a couple years later during a two-month stay in China, when I studied Mandarin at Beijing University and befriended a 3-year-old boy who lived in a shack across from my dormitory.
His name was Xiao Han, and he lived with his sister and grandparents on the campus illegally, and I just fell in love with him. I went to visit him every day, and one day, my heart fell into my feet when his grandparents told me that Xiao Han was going through heavy vomiting and diarrhea and they were afraid to give him anything to eat or drink. I ran back to the dorm and flipped through my suitcase and found an unopened bottle of fruit punch-flavored Gatorade, which I then ran back down to them, imploring them to let him drink it. A couple days later, I went back to find him and he was playing happily again, thank all the powers that be. It occurs to me now as I write this that in addition to the other little girl I saved, I may have saved Xiao Han, too.
So when it came to my own daughter, I knew that I had to keep her filled up with liquids. But my little Apple is finicky at 16 months old – she will only drink water or milk. I had tried store-bought Pedialyte before, but she balked after drinking a sip of it (this was back when she had whooping cough). I don’t blame her – I tried it myself and it was disgusting, like Hawaiian Punch on steroids. We didn’t have any Gatorade at home, so I just made my own Pedialyte for her. It’s very easy: just remember, all you need is filtered water, a little bit of salt, and a little bit of sugar. No need to fork over any cash for a store-bought “brand.” My own version is about 5 ounces filtered water (’cause that’s the size of her sippy cup), half a teaspoon of sugar, and maybe an 1/8 to 1/4 of a teaspoon of a salt. I was gratified to see her willing to drink that.
Throughout the day I also gave her 3 doses of Ipecacuanha 30C (homeopathy for vomiting), which did not seem to hold, and then one dose of Nux Vomica 30C that night, which did take (at least, no vomiting after that). It is with tentative hope and fingers crossed that I write (today is Monday morning) that she is over her mysterious 24-hour spell of food expelling. My main point to everyone, however, is still pertinent to this day: babies and children can get dehydrated rapidly from vomiting or diarrhea, so please remember to keep them hydrated! Gatorade, Pedialyte, or even clean water with a little salt and sugar added will do. Good day, everybody!