Skip to main content
My Child Coughs So Hard, They Vomit. Should I Worry?

You are listening to Healthy Kids Zone:

My Child Coughs So Hard, They Vomit. Should I Worry?

Apr 09, 2018

According to pediatrician Dr. Cindy Gellner, a child coughing until they puke is actually pretty common. Children—especially those under 12 months of age—have a very sensitive gag reflex. But if vomiting after coughing happens too often, it could be a sign of something more serious. Learn the signs to watch out for the next time your child coughs.

Episode Transcript

Dr. Gellner: Have you ever noticed that kids will cough until they throw up? It happens a lot, and it can really freak parents out. But should it? I'll tell you more about kids coughing till they puke on today's Scope. I'm Dr. Cindy Gellner.

Announcer: Keep your kids healthy and happy. You are now entering "The Healthy Kids Zone," with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Face it. Kids cough a lot, and it can get so bad that parents think the coughing will never stop. And then it happens, vomit. Kids have a very active gag reflex. You probably noticed that when you tried to get your child eat something they don't like. Sometimes coughing hard can trigger this gag reflex, and often that's a good sign.

While older kids sometimes know how to hack up and spit out their mucus, younger kids aren't really good at it. So vomiting is the body's way of getting that mucus that they coughed up to come out. No one likes it when kids vomit. It makes a mess. It can sometimes be so forceful that it comes out their nose, and it scares the kids. But is it really a big deal when kids vomit from coughing? Actually it can be.

If your child looks very sick and the cough sounds unusual, it could be pneumonia. Some kids with asthma can cough and cough until they vomit too if they're having a bad attack. So what should you, as a parent, do if your child does vomit with coughing?

First, stay calm. Kids really pick up on when a parent is nervous about anything, and that will make them even more worried. Make sure your child is breathing okay when they are not coughing. If they are working hard to breath or gasping, they should be taken to the emergency room right away, or even call 911 to evaluate for vomit in the lungs.

Rinse your child's nose and mouth out to clear the vomit. If your child is an asthmatic, give them their rescue inhaler. If they are over 12 months old, give them a spoonful of honey to calm the cough. If it's just a one-time vomit episode and your child is otherwise breathing fine, get your child to be calm and breathe normally. But if your child continues to vomit after coughing, it's a good idea to have them then seen by their pediatrician the next day.

Announcer: Want The Scope delivered straight to your inbox? Enter your email address at and click "Sign Me Up" for updates of our latest episodes. The Scope Radio is a production of University of Utah Health Sciences.