What is vomiting?
Vomiting, or throwing up, is a forceful
discharge of stomach contents. It can be a one-time event linked to something
that doesn’t settle right in the stomach. Recurrent vomiting may be cause by
underlying medical conditions. Frequent vomiting may also lead to dehydration,
which can be deadly if left untreated.
Causes of vomiting
Vomiting is common. Eating too much food or drinking
too much alcohol can make a person throw up. This generally isn’t a cause for
concern. Vomiting itself is not a condition. It’s a symptom of other
conditions. Some of these conditions include:
- food poisoning
- infections (associated with bacterial and viral illnesses)
- motion sickness
- pregnancy-related morning sickness
- prescription medications
- Crohn’s disease
Frequent vomiting not related to any of these
causes may be a symptom of cyclic vomiting syndrome.
This condition is characterized by vomiting for up to 10 days. It is usually
coupled with nausea and extreme lack of energy. It mainly occurs during
This condition usually affects children
around age 5 according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
(NIDDK). It occurs in approximately three out of
every 100,000 children according to a 2012 study.
This condition can cause vomiting episodes several times throughout the
year when left untreated. It can also have serious complications that include:
- tooth decay
- a tear in the esophagus
Vomiting is a common symptom but it can sometimes
warrant emergency medical attention. You should go to the doctor immediately if
- vomits for more than one day
- suspects food poisoning
- has a severe headache accompanied by a stiff neck
- has severe abdominal pain
Blood in the vomit is another reason to call
emergency services. Vomiting blood is also known as hematemesis. Hematemesis
refers to a situation in which a patient:
- vomits large amounts of red blood
- spits up dark blood
- coughs up a substance that looks like coffee grounds
Vomiting blood is often caused by ulcers,
ruptured blood vessels, and stomach bleeding. It can also be caused by some
forms of cancer. This condition is often accompanied by dizziness. A person who
vomits blood should call a doctor immediately or go to the nearest emergency
Complications of vomiting
Dehydration is the most common complication
related to vomiting. Vomiting causes your stomach to expel not only food but
fluids, too. Dehydration can cause:
- dry mouth
- dark urine
- decreased urination
This complication is especially serious in
infants and young children who vomit. This is because younger children have
smaller body mass and thus have less fluid to sustain themselves. Parents whose
children show symptoms of dehydration should talk to a pediatrician
Malnutrition is another complication of
vomiting. Failure to keep down solid foods causes the body to lose nutrients.
People experiencing excessive fatigue and weakness related to frequent vomiting
should also seek medical attention.
Treatment for vomiting addresses the
underlying cause. Treatment is not necessary for throwing up once in a while.
But hydration is important even if a patient vomits only once. Drinking clear
liquids is recommended. Clear liquids containing electrolytes can help provide
essential nutrients lost through vomiting.
Solid foods can irritate a sensitive stomach,
increasing the chances of throwing up. So, it may be beneficial to avoid solid
foods until clear liquids are tolerated.
Your doctor might prescribe antiemetic drugs
for frequent vomiting. These medications help to reduce episodes of throwing
Alternative remedies like ingesting products
that contain ginger, bergamot, and lemongrass oil may also help. But use of
alternative remedies should be authorized by your healthcare provider because
they may cause drug interactions.
Dietary changes can also help recurrent
vomiting. These are especially helpful for morning sickness. Foods that help to
alleviate vomiting include:
- nongreasy foods
- saltine crackers
- ginger products like ginger ale
can also try eating smaller meals throughout the day.
Treatment plans are the best course of action
for related medical conditions. Vomiting triggers can vary between patients.
These may include:
- excessive alcohol consumption
- eating too much food
- exercising after eating
- hot or spicy foods
- lack of sleep
Adopting better lifestyle habits can help
prevent vomiting episodes. It’s difficult to entirely avoid viruses that cause
vomiting, but you can reduce your chances of getting a virus by exercising good
hygiene, like regular hand washing. Knowing how to treat recurrent vomiting can
help you avoid further complications.