The only thing worse than a nasty stomach bug is watching your kids have that same nasty stomach bug! So. Much. Vomit. Thankfully, though, there are some great resources that we parents can tap into for our kids so that their brush with the stomach flu can be more bearable. That’s why so many people are learning about, and asking their doctors for Zofran for kids with stomach flu.
Can My Doctor Prescribe Zofran For Kids with Stomach Flu to Help Relieve Nausea and Vomiting?
Yes, no, and it depends. How’s that for a nice, simple, complicated answer?
Officially, the American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t recommend using any medications to stop or limit vomiting. That being said, there are several medications that are given “off label” on occasion, although the final decision is up to the prescribing doctor’s discretion.
What that means is this: officially, Zofran is only approved for preventing nausea and vomiting in patients about to undergo chemotherapy and/or surgery. However, it helps with nausea, period. So some doctors prescribe it for a secondary, not-officially-sanctioned purpose: helping manage nausea and vomiting in the rest of us.
In other words, your doctor may prescribe it. Or they may not. It’s their call.
What is Zofran?
Zofran, or ondansetron, is an antiemetic medication. It’s a a highly specific and selective serotonin 5-HT3 receptor antagonist, with a no-to-low affinity for dopamine receptors.
Translation into normal-people English: Zofran is an amazing medicine that helps control nausea and vomiting. We only sort of know why it works, but it does work.
How does Zofran Help Nausea and Vomiting?
While I’d love to draw you a fancy picture detailing the physiologic pathways leading to emesis (vomiting), here’s the short version as to how Zofran works.
We know some of the ways that our body and brain work – but vomiting isn’t one that’s fully understood. Parts of it are, but it’s still a bit of a mystery. That being said, Zofran manages to metaphorically “turn off” one known vomiting trigger, located in our brain.
And because it’s a relatively simple drug, it has far fewer side effects than other old-school nausea-inhibiting drugs.
That being said, no medicine (Zofran included) is without adverse effects. Common side effects of taking zofran include headaches, constipation, and dizziness. In my Emergency Room experience, the most common of those among kids was constipation. In fact, several of our doctors would preemptively warn families to go ahead and load re-hydrating juices with a hint of Miralax added – just to keep things regular.
When Would My Doctor Not Prescribe Zofran for Nausea for My Children?
Now, not every doctor will prescribe Zofran. It is, after all, their final decision to prescribe it or not.
In fact, the last time I took a child in for stomach flu-like symptoms, my kids’ doctor decided against prescribing us any Zofran for that particular case. (He’s prescribed us Zofran in the past – and maybe he will again for another case.) But you know what? Things worked out just fine even if there was some continued vomit.
The fact that my children’s pediatrician was willing to evaluate the case on a case by case basis was a great testament to his skill and bedside manner. Yes, he’ll prescribe medicines that will help. But he’s also weighing that against potential negative side effects. So just because your doctor says no to prescribing Zofran isn’t a bad thing.
That being said, Zofran is being prescribed at a much higher rate by emergency department physicians. Why? Because we were trying to use a less invasive treatment to manage the vomiting and potential dehydration. Kids (and many of their parents) would much rather take medicine than get IV fluids!
So, if the vomiting isn’t too bad, your doctor may recommend you wait it out more at home. However, if it’s getting too severe, they may opt to skip the Zofran and go straight to IV fluids. Or maybe they’ll take a middle road. It’s all going to depend on how ill your child is – which is just the way it should be.
Are There Other Nausea Management Medicines Besides Zofran that Kids Can Take?
In almost 8 years of working in an emergency room, there have been two main prescription medicines I’ve administered for nausea and vomiting. The most common one was Zofran. It really works well!
Another similar medicine is Phenergan. It’s more commonly prescribed to adults, so perhaps you’re familiar with it. We mainly gave it to teenagers with migraines and migraine-induced nausea.
However, it isn’t usually used with small children. In fact, the FDA states it should not be used at all for children under the age of two. That’s because Phenergan has the tendency to make you sleepy (perfect for treating migraines!) – and can mess with your breathing to a small degree. Unfortunately, that small degree in small children is a big deal. So, Phenergan is a no-go for most kids.
In other words, Zofran is usually the first line of prescription medicine. However, if you don’t have access to Zofran, there are some natural and holistic ways to manage vomiting. And these don’t require a prescription.
- One is by practicing deep breathing and mindfulness. This works better with older kids who can be calmed down when ill – in other words, you may need to combine this with another idea!
- There are also certain essential oils that help manage nausea and vomiting, especially spearmint and winter mint.
- Check the over-the-counter area at your local pharmacy for pharmacist-recommended nausea remedies. One we’ve used and loved is quite literally flavored sugar water. And it’s delicious.
Surviving the stomach flu isn’t fun. The amount of laundry it creates alone can be overwhelming. But this way, you’ve got a few more resources up your sleeve when the vomit starts coming. Good luck – and feel better soon!
More on Zofran for Kids with Stomach Flu:
- Ondansetron for acute gastroenteritis in children from the National Center for Biotechnology Information via the US National Library of Medicine
- Pros and Cons of Zofran for Kids With Stomach Flu
- Why Zofran Is Prescribed for Kids With Nausea via Very Well Health
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- What You Need to Know About Benadryl for Cough
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