Childhood Cyclic Vomiting

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Childhood Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CCVS)


Childhood cyclic vomiting syndrome (CCVS) is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of severe nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. These episodes typically occur in cycles, with periods of remission in between. CCVS can significantly impact the quality of life for children and their families, causing physical discomfort, emotional distress, and social challenges.


The hallmark symptoms of CCVS include:

  • Nausea: Severe, unrelenting nausea that can last for hours or days.
  • Vomiting: Frequent and forceful vomiting, often accompanied by abdominal pain.
  • Abdominal pain: Diffuse and colicky abdominal pain that can range from mild to severe.
  • Additional symptoms: Fatigue, lethargy, headache, anorexia, and dehydration.


CCVS episodes can vary in frequency and duration. Some children may experience episodes every few weeks, while others may have episodes only a few times a year. Episodes typically last for 1 to 3 days, but can sometimes extend for a week or longer.


The exact cause of CCVS is unknown, but certain triggers are thought to contribute to episodes, including:

  • Emotional stress
  • Physical activity
  • Certain foods (e.g., dairy, wheat, eggs)
  • Infections
  • Medications
  • Environmental factors (e.g., motion sickness)


Diagnosing CCVS can be challenging as there is no specific test for the condition. Doctors typically rely on a combination of medical history, physical examination, and ruling out other potential causes of the symptoms. The Rome IV criteria, developed by the Rome Foundation, provide guidelines for diagnosing CCVS in children:

  • At least 5 episodes of vomiting that occur at least 4 times a month for at least 6 months.
  • Vomiting episodes last for at least 1 hour and up to 10 days.
  • No evidence of an underlying organic (physical) disease.
  • Absence of anorexia nervosa.


There is no cure for CCVS, but treatment focuses on managing symptoms and preventing episodes. Treatment options include:

  • Medication: Antiemetics (anti-nausea medications), such as ondansetron and prochlorperazine, can help reduce nausea and vomiting. Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline, may also be effective in preventing episodes.
  • Dietary modifications: Avoiding trigger foods can help minimize episodes. Keeping a food diary can help identify potential triggers.
  • Behavioral therapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can help children manage stress and anxiety, which can trigger episodes. Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, can also be beneficial.
  • Hospitalization: Severe episodes may require hospitalization for intravenous fluids, pain management, and antiemetics.


The prognosis for CCVS varies depending on the severity and frequency of episodes. Most children will experience a decrease in episode frequency and severity as they get older. However, some children may continue to experience episodes into adulthood.


If not managed properly, CCVS can lead to complications such as:

  • Dehydration
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Social isolation

Impact on Quality of Life

CCVS can significantly impact the quality of life for children and their families. The physical discomfort, emotional distress, and social challenges associated with the disorder can affect school attendance, extracurricular activities, and family relationships.

Support and Resources

Support groups and online forums provide a valuable source of information and emotional support for children with CCVS and their families. Resources include:


Childhood cyclic vomiting syndrome is a chronic functional gastrointestinal disorder that can significantly impact the lives of children and their families. Although there is no cure, treatment can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. With appropriate care and support, children with CCVS can live full and active lives despite their condition.

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