What is cyclical vomiting syndrome (CVS)?

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Cyclical vomiting syndrome is an uncommon ailment often seen among children but can also affect adults. An individual with CVS might feel very sick and experience episodes of vomiting for hours or even days at a time.

The individual eventually recovers and feel fine before ending up with another episode that arises after a month or later. Cyclical vomiting syndrome can affect an individual for months, years or even decades. The symptoms can be severe that some might be required to remain in bed and hospitalized during an episode.

Even though the condition can be debilitating where it can disrupt with daily life, it is still possible to manage it with medications and lifestyle changes.

An individual with cyclical vomiting syndrome will experience a regular pattern of feeling sick, recovery, feeling well and feeling sick again.


An individual with cyclical vomiting syndrome will experience a regular pattern of feeling sick, recovery, feeling well and feeling sick again.

Take note that the pattern is comprised of 4 phases:

Prodrome phase

  • Feeling that an episode is about to begin
  • Significant nausea and sweating for a few minutes up to a few hours

Vomiting phase

  • Retching and vomiting arises at night or early morning
  • Individual vomits up to 5-6 times in an hour for at least an hour for up to 10 days
  • Unable to move or respond
  • Other symptoms that might be present include diarrhea, abdominal pain, dizziness, fever, light sensitivity, headache, drowsiness, pale skin and drooling

Recovery phase

  • Vomiting and retching ceases and nausea subsides
  • Recovery is immediate or gradual

Well phase

  • There are no phases of symptoms until the prodrome stage starts again

It is important to note that the cycle is likely to be regular and predictable. This usually includes the same symptoms that arise at the same time of the day at the same length every time.

Who are affected?

Cyclical vomiting syndrome typically affects children, usually diagnosed at the ages of 3-7 years. Children who suffer from light and sound sensitivity or migraines are likely to end up with the condition. The condition settles by the time the child reaches adulthood but can also affect adults as well.

Management of a vomiting episode

Once a vomiting episode starts, it is recommended to remain in bed in a quiet, dark room and take the prescribed medications for this phase. Continue to provide the individual with small sips of fluid to prevent dehydration such as water, diluted fruit juice or semi-skimmed milk.

When the vomiting episode has settled, the following can be done:

  • Increase the intake of fluids and steadily resume a normal diet
  • Take the prescribed medications to prevent future episodes

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