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What is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?

What is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome?


Until my son’s 2 year check up, I had never heard of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. 

Now, my son is diagnosed and is taking medication twice a day for CVS.

Chances are… You’ve probably never heard of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome before, right? 

That’s because it is considered a rare disorder of only 200,000 cases each year in the United States.

Out of the 200,000 cases total, 3 out of every 100,000 cases are children, usually within the age range of 3 to 7.

While it considered a rare disorder, it most commonly occurs in children. 

For my own son at 2 years old, it’s miserable!  He can’t (yet) communicate with me when he’s feeling nauseous and just plain sick. 

Not only is it miserable for my son, it’s also extremely stressful for parents!

Let’s take a look at what Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is and how it can be managed!

Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you click on them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. Keep in mind that I link these companies and their products because of their quality and not because of the commission I receive from your purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Update: My son was diagnosed with Autism.  Although he still has episodes of Cyclic Vomiting, the doctors and I believe that his vomiting is due to a ‘sensory overload.’  

What Is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)?

Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is a disorder causing episodes of nausea and/or vomiting. 

These episodes are usually sudden and repeated.  Episodes of vomiting can last as short as an hour to several days.

One of the main characteristics of CVS is a cooling off period between vomiting.

For instance, my son will puke multiple times a day for four to five days in a row.  Then, magically the vomiting will stop all together for several weeks. 

Thankfully, my son does not keep vomiting for hours on end like other children with CVS.

Nonetheless, vomiting in children for days on end is not fun for the child or parent.

It is important to note that Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome does not cause vomiting for weeks on end. 

Also, the vomiting and nausea episodes can happen randomly or on a regular basis.


  • Severe vomiting (for than once an hour for several days consecutively; but lasts less than one week)
  • 3+ episodes with no obvious cause for vomiting in a 6 month period or 5+ episodes occurring at any given time
  • Sweating
  • Nausea (causing vomiting)
  • Headaches
  • Gagging/retching
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Pale skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • drooling/spitting

The first three symptoms on this list are the most common and are used to diagnose Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.

However, the rest of the symptoms may or not be present.

My son definitely fits the diagnosis criteria for CVS, but because he’s only 2 its hard to know whether he as a headache, stomach pain or sensitivity to light.

Although my son rarely gets fevers with his episodes, he does get gagging/retching, (occasional) diarrhea and dizziness.

Related Articles: 5 Easy Ways To Gain Patience With Your Toddler

Possible Causes

Honestly, there’s no specific cause to CVS. While there’s no known cause, there are many possible causes.

Possible causes include:

  • Gene mutations with an increased risk of CVS
  • How the brain and endocrine system process and react to stress
  • Nerve problems between the brain and gut (digestive tract)

While these three possible causes have not be proven, there are things that trigger nausea and vomiting episodes.

Trigger’s that may cause episodes:

  • Stressful situations
  • Cold
  • Flu
  • Chronic sinus infections
  • Overly excited in situations like birthday parties and vacations (mainly in children)
  • Extreme hot or cold temperatures
  • Allergies
  • Lack of sleep
  • Motion sickness
  • Certain foods (it’s sometimes takes a while to find which specific foods are a trigger for episodes)
  • Periods without eating

Although these things can bring on or increase the frequency of episodes, it’s hard to determine which trigger affects the person more.

With all of my son’s CVS episodes there was no known trigger’s before the episodes and there normally never is. 

His episodes tend to happen randomly, so I assume he is feeling nauseated and simply can’t tell me.

Complications Of CVS

There are three major complications that come about with Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome…

  1. Tooth decay from stomach acid in vomiting that breaks down tooth enamel.
  2. Damage to the esophagus from stomach acid.
  3. Dehydration


Medication is the first line of defense for treating and lessening the symptoms of Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome. 

Some common medications to treat CVS include anti-nausea, antidepressants, acetaminophen, analgesics and antacids.

My son now takes the medication cyproheptadine, 6 ml morning and night. 

Since he began the medication, vomiting episodes have drastically improved.

Here’s the benefits since starting cyproheptadine:

  • Decreased vomiting episodes (in one month he’s had two minor episodes that were weeks apart).
  • Decreased gagging and retching
  • Better sleep (able to sleep 6 hours without waking)
  • Increased appetite (plus, not vomiting before or after meals)

Overall, the difference has been phenomenal!  My only concern is that the medication is known to increase appetite, in turn causing weight gain.

My son is in the 99th percentile for height and weight. 

I am concerned about him being overweight because of the medication and increased eating.

Related Articles: 5 Bedtime Tips To Help Your Child Get A Better Night’s Sleep

How To Prepare For CVS Episodes Outside The Home

Since my son has been dealing with Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome for 6+ months before his recent diagnosis, leaving the house is an extremely stressful event. 

Because of CVS I have to be prepared for random vomiting episodes outside the house.

The last episode my son had was when we were shopping on Costco and his vomiting shut down an entire aisle.

When situations like this happen, I need to be prepared for them ahead of time. 

So every time I leave the house I take the following items in an extra bag just for CVS episodes:

A Wet bag/plastic bags

2 sets of extra clothes

Extra jacket (if needed)

Wet wipes

2 receiving blankets

Travel size Pedialyte

Sippy cup

At home I have all these items available, plus the following items to help with CVS episodes at home:

  1. A deep cleaner
  2. Deep cleaning solution
  3. Carpet spot cleaner
  4. Extra rags or dish towels
  5. Mop and moping spray

Final Thoughts

Before my son received mediation for Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome, life was stressful. 

I had to pack specific items in a separate bag to always be prepared for CVS episodes.

Since the diagnosis and medication, my son’s episodes have significantly decreased!

I am under the hope that this disorder will not be lifelong. 

While Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is manageable, no one wants to live the rest of their lives with horrible vomiting episodes.

I’m hope that CVS in my son is not permanent and he will outgrow it…  But only time will tell. 

Although my son has to take medication everyday, it was worth it to speak up about his vomiting episodes.

As a mother, I know something wasn’t right about my son vomiting as much as he did. 

At first I thought it might be the extra saliva produced by teething that was making him sick. 

Then, I thought maybe he was on the verge of getting a minor cold.

I didn’t know there was such a disorder as Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome.

Thankfully, I switched pediatricians for my son and found a doctor that’s diagnosed similar cases of CVS in other children. 

Plus, I told the pediatrician my concerns out of concern and also stress.

I wished I would have switched doctor’s for him sooner and made my concerns for the vomiting episodes known sooner.


Works Cited

Definitions & facts for CVS

Symptoms & causes of CVS






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