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Nausea and Vomiting

Alternative names: Upset Stomach, Emesis

What is nausea and vomiting?
What causes nausea and vomiting?
How does my doctor tell if I have nausea and vomiting?
How are nausea and vomiting treated?

What is nausea and vomiting?

Nausea is the feeling of being about to vomit. Vomiting is the forceful ejection of undigested food through the mouth.

What causes nausea and vomiting?

Nausea and vomiting are not conditions, but symptoms of many different conditions. These gastrointestinal (digestive) conditions can cause nausea and vomiting:

Nausea and vomiting is more commonly the result of:

  • A viral infection, like the stomach flu
  • A migraine headache
  • Motion sickness
  • Food poisoning
  • Food allergies
  • A reaction to medications
  • Morning sickness during pregnancy
  • Kidney stones
  • Overeating
  • Drinking too much alcohol

How does my doctor tell if I have nausea and vomiting?

Your doctor will want to ask you questions about the severity of your nausea and vomiting, and how often they occur. In addition to a physical examination, he or she may wish to perform one or more of these common tests:

  • Blood tests
  • A pregnancy test, for women of childbearing age
  • Urinalysis
  • Abdominal X-rays
  • If you have recently had a head injury, a computerized axial tomography (CT) scan, where an X-ray beam rotates around your body to make the image

How are nausea and vomiting treated?

Because most bouts of nausea and vomiting are caused by mild viral infections, they can be treated at home through common methods such as drinking small amounts of clear liquids, taking an over-the-counter stomach remedy, and resting.

However, call 911 or go to an emergency room immediately if:

  • You think the person vomiting has taken poison, or swallowed a drug overdose
  • You think the person vomiting is in diabetic shock
  • The person vomiting has a severe headache
  • The person vomiting is having chest pain and trouble breathing
  • The person vomiting has signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke (a high body temperature, muscle cramps)
  • You think the person vomiting is having an allergic reaction

Call or see a doctor if:

  • Your nausea and vomiting has lasted longer than 24 hours
  • You have constant, severe abdominal pain
  • You suspect that you have eaten spoiled food
  • You began vomiting after taking a new medication
  • You are dehydrated (sunken eyes, crying without tears, dark yellow urine, and loss of normal skin elasticity)
  • You have blood or bile in your vomit
  • Your have a high fever (over 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • You have blurred vision or eye pain
  • You are confused, or have a stiff neck

Call your child's pediatrician if your child:

  • Has been vomiting and is lethargic, or is much more irritable than normal
  • Is vomiting repeatedly
  • Is unable to keep down any fluids for 8 hours or more
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