Nausea and vomiting are symptoms associated with a broad range of illnesses and medical conditions. Because these symptoms are so common, it may be difficult to determine what is causing your nausea and vomiting. The two most common causes for nausea and vomiting are stomach virus (viral gastroenteritis) and morning sickness due to pregnancy.
Nausea is the uneasy feeling or sensation that you are going to vomit or “throw up” the contents of your stomach, while vomiting is the actual act of forcibly ejecting the contents of the stomach, or “throwing up”. Nausea and vomiting may or may not happen in conjunction with each other and experiencing nausea does not necessarily mean that vomiting will occur. There are numerous conditions can result in nausea or vomiting, most of which are not dangerous or life threatening.
Vomiting occurs when the diaphragm contracts in a plunging motion, while the stomach muscles constrict, thus forcing out the stomach contents up through the esophagus and out through the mouth. Nausea and vomiting can be the result of an illness, can be a side effect of certain medications and can occur in individuals who witness another person vomiting which can often trigger the same reaction. While the most common causes of nausea and vomiting are stomach virus, food poisoning and morning sickness, there are several other factors that can lead to the condition. Additional factors include:
In most cases, nausea and vomiting are not life threatening. Occasionally, it can be an indication of a serious illness. More serious conditions associated with nausea and vomiting include:
Possibly the single biggest risk factor associated with vomiting is dehydration. Anyone who is experiencing a bout of vomiting is at risk for dehydration, however, children are more likely to become dehydrated because unlike adults, they are not able to identify the warning signs. Warning signs of dehydration include:
There are also visual indicators of dehydration. Visual indicators of dehydration include:
If your nausea and vomiting lasts longer than 24 hours you should contact your doctor. If you are not sure of the cause of your vomiting or if you have an underlying medical condition responsible for your vomiting or nausea, you should contact your health care provider. It may be necessary to seek emergency medical care if your nausea and vomiting is accompanied by pain, fever, vomit containing blood, or bloody or tarry stools. In addition, if you have been experiencing recurring bouts of nausea or vomiting for longer than one month, this may be an indication of a more serious medical condition. You should seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing any of the following:
Your symptoms may be treated with anti-nausea medication while your doctor attempts to determine the source of your nausea and vomiting. Medication may be given by mouth if tolerated or by injection or suppository if necessary. If you have become dehydrated due to vomiting you will likely be given IV fluids to replenish lost fluids and rehydrate your body.
If you are experiencing nausea or vomiting at home, one of the most important things you can do is to rest. Find a comfortable position and try to relax. Too much movement can aggravate your nausea and induce vomiting. Additionally, it is important to stay hydrated. Sip clear fluids a little at a time, as you can tolerate them. It is important not to drink too much at once because your stomach will not tolerate it, thus causing additional vomiting. Likewise, avoid solid foods for at least 5 to 6 hours after a bout of vomiting. When you return to eating, start with bland, dry foods at first, adding additional foods as your stomach tolerates them. You may also benefit from over-the-counter medicines that can help to temporarily calm your stomach.
In general, children who are experiencing vomiting should be looked after more diligently than adults. If your child is experiencing nausea and vomiting call his or her doctor. Children run a greater risk of experiencing dehydration due to vomiting and the condition can develop rather quickly. Over-the-counter medications should not be given to children without first consulting with the child’s pediatrician. Always consult your child’s doctor before administering any over-the-counter medications.
Nausea and vomiting are not an illness or disease but rather symptoms of another medical condition. Most often, nausea and vomiting are caused by non-life-threatening illnesses such as stomach virus or morning sickness. Vomiting or nausea that persists or is accompanied by other symptoms should be evaluated by a doctor to rule out other serious medical conditions.