An unsettled stomach, and nausea and vomiting it can cause can be difficult to cope with – more so for children. Here are some ways to ensure your child gets the nutrition required to regain strength and better fight off the underlying cause of the sickness

Nausea and vomiting can be triggered by a variety of factors, and at Cuddles, we often encounter it in the form of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), which is one of the most feared side-effects of cancer treatment.
Broadly speaking, CINV is:

  1. Anticipatory: a conditioned response because of prior episodes of nausea or vomiting, which might be triggered by certain smells or foods
  2. Acute: when it occurs within 24 hours of chemotherapy administration
  3. Delayed: when it occurs after 24 hours; can last up to 7 days
  4. Breakthrough: when it occurs despite medication

CINV manifests differently in every individual; it’s been reported in upto 70 to 80% of children receiving chemotherapy. Here’s how to increase comfort levels if your child is undergoing chemotherapy.

On treatment days:

  • Before the treatment, practice meditation and deep-breathing together
  • Learn the best time for your child to eat and drink. It is best to either eat a little or nothing at all, just before treatment
  • After treatment, wait at least one hour before you feed your child.
  • We’ve found a few ways to help our patients eat even when they face CINV.

These tips can come in handy for any ailment that causes nausea and vomiting, as well.
How to feed your child:

  • Feed small portions of food frequently. Having some food in their stomachs may help them feel better.
  • Ask your child to eat slowly.
  • Encourage them to drink liquids between meals, not with meals. Slowly drink or sip liquids all day – a straw may help. Cool, clear beverages are recommended.
  • Low-fat, bland and salty foods work best. Avoid greasy, fried and strongly-spiced foods.
  • Use of a teaspoon of roasted cumin seed powder (jeera powder) with powdered sugar to help battle queasiness.
  • Don’t force your child to eat foods when he/ she feels nauseated, as they might develop a dislike.
  • Ensure that your child stays in an upright position for at least two hours after eating.
  • Keep your child away from odors. Serve the food in a dining room or away from the kitchen.
  • If the smell of food makes your child nauseated, avoid hot foods and liquids. Try colder foods and foods at room temperature.
  • A snack at bedtime may help avoid uneasiness through the night and also reduces the chances of nausea on waking up.
  • Keep crackers at your child’s bedside if nausea is a problem in the morning or after a nap.
  • Present the food well to make it more appealing to your child.
  • Track your child’s nausea by taking note of any particular foods or events that trigger it. See if there is a pattern and if so, try to change that pattern.
  • Distract your child with soft music, a favourite TV program, story books, board games, or the company of others.
  • Give your child hard candy like lemon drops or mints to help get rid of bad tastes.

What should you feed them?
Certain liquids and foods are more soothing. Here are our recommendations:

  1. Liquids
    • Soups (clear or thick) without any solid pieces of vegetables, skins or any irritants.
    • Coconut water, or water infused with sugar and fennel seeds (saunf) or basil seeds(sabja).
    • Lime juice or a fresh fruit juice
    • Buttermilk or lassi
    • A refreshing drink of green tea, lemongrass, ginger, mint leaves, peppercorns, and a small piece of jaggery may help your child’s appetite improve and change the taste of the mouth. Serve cold or lukewarm.
    • Indian gooseberry (amla) with ginger is a good concentrated drink option.
    • Make a fruit smoothie using fruits your child likes, blended with hung curd. It’s a soothing, nutritious choice.
    • Make popsicles from boiled, cooled water or by freezing fresh fruit juice in ice trays.
  2. Foods
    • Hardboiled eggs or egg-toast provide protein, and won’t smell as much as other egg preparations.
    • Mashed potatoes with sea salt
    • Toast and dry crackers
    • Homemade custard and pudding with fruit pieces and homemade cream on top might interest your child and reduce an aversion towards eating.
    • Soft, smooth fruits which can be peeled.
    • Sour foods to help reduce the sensation of uneasiness.
    • Pick one-dish meals rather than full courses. Khichdi, vegetable frankie, stuffed paratha, dhokla, chila, idli, appam, dosa with sambhar, and curd rice are all good options.

Author: Urvi Trivedi, Head Nutritionist, Cuddles Foundation

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