Health Library
Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)

What is Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome (CVS)?

Cyclic vomiting syndrome is a condition of recurrent episodes of intense nausea and vomiting lasting hours to days separated by completely symptom-free periods. The cause is unknown but there appears to be an increased incidence in children who have a family or personal history of migraines.

Incidence of CVS

CVS occurs most commonly in children ages 3 to 7 years old but can occur at any age, including adulthood.

Signs and Symptoms of CVS

There may or may not be a warning sign or trigger prior to the start of a cyclic vomiting episode. If there is a trigger or warning sign, it may occur within minutes to hours prior to the episode.

Some examples of triggers or warning signs:

  • Feeling tired
  • Foods like chocolate and cheese
  • Eating too much or right before bed
  • Allergies
  • Heat
  • Increased physical exertion
  • Lack of sleep
  • Motion sickness
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress (good and bad)
  • Sinus problems
  • Illness

During the vomiting episode, other symptoms may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unable to eat, drink, or take medications
  • Light or sound sensitivity
  • Dehydration

Diagnosis of CVS

Members of your child’s healthcare team might ask if your child has had:

  • Three or more episodes a year with severe vomiting and nausea
  • Two episodes that have lasted for hours to days but less than a week
  • Periods of being symptom-free with no nausea or vomiting

There is no one specific test to diagnose cyclic vomiting. Your child’s healthcare team will rule out other causes of the symptoms such as:

  • Inner ear problems
  • Metabolic problems
  • Intestinal problems such as a rotation in the intestines, or blockage
  • Kidney problems
  • Central nervous system problems
  • Eating disorders
  • Pregnancy

Treatment for CVS

There is no cure for CVS, but there are treatments. Each child's treatment plan is unique.

Treatment options can include:

  • Dietary and lifestyle changes (avoiding dietary triggers, getting enough sleep)
  • Medications (to prevent episodes or stop an episode)
  • IV fluids
  • Other supportive measures (counseling, family support)

Over time, most children do grow out of CVS.

Call Your Child's Doctor If Your Child Experiences:

  • Signs of possible dehydration – dizziness, weakness, dark urine, eyes sunken, eyes unable to make tears, loss of sweat in armpits and groin, or heart palpitations.
  • Unusual behavioral or motor / balance changes
  • Vomiting violently with no relief with prescribed medications
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe headache
  • High fever
  • Coughing up blood from vomiting

Last Updated 08/2022

Reviewed By Kim Sobel, RN
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