Vomiting Bile?

Vomiting bile (bright green fluid) is a cause for concern in babies and toddlers. It indicates a blockage to the bowel and usually requires urgent treatment.

Vomiting yellow bile when a child has been unwell for a few days is not so serious as vomiting bright green bile.

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What are the causes of vomiting bile?

Bright green bile is vomited when there is a bowel obstruction. It is a serious sign and you need to seek medical attention for your baby or child as soon as possible.

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What is bile?

Bile is a bright green fluid produced in the gall-bladder. It helps in the digestion of food.

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What causes bowel obstructions in babies and children?

Babies who have a bowel obstruction usually have some structural abnormality of the bowel. This means that during fetal development there was a problem so the bowel was not formed properly. Sometimes, when this happens, the problem is seen shortly after birth and sometimes things may seem normal for some time. 

If a malrotation has occurred - this is when the bowel turns that occur normally during fetal development have not occurred correctly - there may be no problem for years. If there is then a twisting of the bowel , this can cause a blockage - called a volvulus.

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What should I do if my baby or child has been vomiting bile?

If you child has been vomiting bright green bile, you need to get medical attention as soon as possible. Contact your doctor or go to a hospital.

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What will happen if my baby or child has a blocked bowel?

He will need an operation to fix the problem. The bowel that is blocked will usually need to be cut out. What happens after the operation will depend on how much bowel needed to be removed.

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What if my baby has been vomiting yellow bile?

Sometimes, if a baby or child is vomiting a lot and not eating, there may be a slight yellow tinge to the vomit from bile that is not used. This is not true bile-stained vomit (which is bright green) and as long as the vomiting settles down, you do not need to be worried.

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Last reviewed 26 May 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.



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