Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea is a sick feeling that often comes before throwing up (vomiting). Vomiting is a reflex where stomach contents come out of your mouth. Vomiting can cause severe loss of body fluids (dehydration). Children and elderly adults can become dehydrated quickly, especially if they also have diarrhea. Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of a condition or disease. It is important to find the cause of your symptoms.

CAUSES

  • Direct irritation of the stomach lining. This irritation can result from increased acid production (gastroesophageal reflux disease), infection, food poisoning, taking certain medicines (such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), alcohol use, or tobacco use.

  • Signals from the brain. These signals could be caused by a headache, heat exposure, an inner ear disturbance, increased pressure in the brain from injury, infection, a tumor, or a concussion, pain, emotional stimulus, or metabolic problems.

  • An obstruction in the gastrointestinal tract (bowel obstruction).

  • Illnesses such as diabetes, hepatitis, gallbladder problems, appendicitis, kidney problems, cancer, sepsis, atypical symptoms of a heart attack, or eating disorders.

  • Medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation.

  • Receiving medicine that makes you sleep (general anesthetic) during surgery.

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver may ask for tests to be done if the problems do not improve after a few days. Tests may also be done if symptoms are severe or if the reason for the nausea and vomiting is not clear. Tests may include:

  • Urine tests.

  • Blood tests.

  • Stool tests.

  • Cultures (to look for evidence of infection).

  • X-rays or other imaging studies.

Test results can help your caregiver make decisions about treatment or the need for additional tests.

TREATMENT

You need to stay well hydrated. Drink frequently but in small amounts. You may wish to drink water, sports drinks, clear broth, or eat frozen ice pops or gelatin dessert to help stay hydrated. When you eat, eating slowly may help prevent nausea. There are also some antinausea medicines that may help prevent nausea.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Take all medicine as directed by your caregiver.

  • If you do not have an appetite, do not force yourself to eat. However, you must continue to drink fluids.

  • If you have an appetite, eat a normal diet unless your caregiver tells you differently.

  • Eat a variety of complex carbohydrates (rice, wheat, potatoes, bread), lean meats, yogurt, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Avoid high-fat foods because they are more difficult to digest.

  • Drink enough water and fluids to keep your urine clear or pale yellow.

  • If you are dehydrated, ask your caregiver for specific rehydration instructions. Signs of dehydration may include:

  • Severe thirst.

  • Dry lips and mouth.

  • Dizziness.

  • Dark urine.

  • Decreasing urine frequency and amount.

  • Confusion.

  • Rapid breathing or pulse.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You have blood or brown flecks (like coffee grounds) in your vomit.

  • You have black or bloody stools.

  • You have a severe headache or stiff neck.

  • You are confused.

  • You have severe abdominal pain.

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.

  • You do not urinate at least once every 8 hours.

  • You develop cold or clammy skin.

  • You continue to vomit for longer than 24 to 48 hours.

  • You have a fever.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.