Dizziness is a condition that occurs when you feel lightheaded, weak, or physically unsteady. Some people may feel as if the room is spinning around them.
Vomiting occurs when your stomach contents travel upward from your stomach to your esophagus and out your mouth. Vomiting can be forceful and painful. Chronic vomiting can damage teeth and the delicate lining of the esophagus and mouth, because vomit is highly acidic.
What causes dizziness and vomiting?
A variety of causes can make you vomit or feel dizzy. Causes of dizziness and vomiting can include:
- Affected cardiac output: When your heart isn’t pumping properly, your blood pressure can drop. This can result in dizziness and vomiting.
- Anxiety: Intense feelings of anxiety can lead to physical symptoms, such as dizziness and vomiting.
- Inner ear inflammation: The inner ear is responsible for helping maintain balance in the body. Inflammation in the inner ear can cause dizziness that leads to nausea and vomiting.
- Medications: Medications including sedatives, chemotherapy, tranquilizers, and anti-seizure medications can all cause dizziness and vomiting.
- Vestibular migraine: Migraines are headaches that can cause intense symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to light and noise.
Other common causes include:
- motion sickness
- Meniere disease
- gastric and duodenal ulcers
- low blood sugar
- ingesting poison or breathing in harmful chemicals
- SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome)
- abdominal aortic aneurysm
- epidural hematoma
- aftershave poisoning
- carbon monoxide poisoning
- marine animal bites or stings
- acoustic neuroma
- addisonian crisis (acute adrenal crisis)
- isopropyl alcohol poisoning
- partial seizures
- acute mountain sickness
- alcoholic ketoacidosis
- benign positional vertigo
- toxic shock syndrome
- autonomic neuropathy
- hyperemesis gravidarum
- panic attack
- caffeine overdose
- viral gastroenteritis
Dizziness and vomiting in children
In children, dizziness and vomiting can be signs of:
- low blood pressure: particularly evident when getting up too quickly after sitting
- low blood sugar: can occur if a child is diabetic, has had a lot of exercise, or has not eaten for several hours
- food poisoning: can cause vomiting and diarrhea and lead to dehydration if the child is not drinking enough liquid
- dehydration: can result from not consuming enough liquid during the day
In more serious cases, these symptoms may be caused by:
- central nervous system problems, due to intracranial processes or the presence of too much fluid in the brain
- inner ear problems, which can cause a loss of balance, resulting in dizziness and vomiting
- heart conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke
- internal bleeding, which can result from trauma to the body and lead to dizziness and vomiting due to blood loss
- ingesting poison or breathing in harmful chemicals
- neurological, joint, muscle, or sensory disorders, which can result in a loss of balance and orientation, causing dizziness and vomiting
- certain medications, such as those used to treat psychiatric disorders
Dizziness and vomiting in pregnant women
Dizziness and vomiting may affect some pregnant women. In many cases, these symptoms are a result of morning sickness and not cause for concern. Morning sickness may occur as soon as three weeks after conception. It’s a result of rising levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone in the body. These hormones cause the stomach to empty more slowly.
Pregnant women also have a heightened sense of smell. Some odors — including foods like fish or meat, perfume, and cigarette smoke — can cause dizziness and vomiting. Women experiencing sensitivity to odor should try to eat small, frequent meals during the day and avoid any foods that have offensive or strong odors.
Dilated blood vessels
The body’s blood vessels also dilate and blood pressure drops during pregnancy, causing dizziness. Pregnant women should avoid standing for long periods and rise slowly after lying down or sitting to avoid dizziness. If you feel dizzy while standing, lie down on your left side.
In some cases, dizziness and vomiting during pregnancy can be signs of a problem. If you experience severe dizziness along with abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, you may have a serious condition called ectopic pregnancy. In an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg implants itself to the outside of the uterus. If left untreated, this condition can be life-threatening.
When to seek medical help
Call 911 or have someone drive you to the hospital if you think you’re having a heart attack or stroke.
See your doctor if you’re pregnant and these symptoms affect your ability to eat, drink, or sleep.
Dizziness and vomiting will often go away without treatment, but you should seek medical attention if you vomit blood, pass bloody stool, or lose consciousness.
Seek medical attention if your symptoms don’t subside within two to three days.
Seek medical attention if your symptoms are accompanied by fever, changes in your vision or hearing, or weakness/numbness/tingling in your arms and legs.
This information is a summary. Always seek medical attention if you’re concerned you may be experiencing a medical emergency.
Diagnosing the causes of dizziness and vomiting
Your doctor will try to determine what’s causing your dizziness and vomiting. To do so, he or she may ask several questions, including:
- Are you taking any new medications?
- Have you experienced these symptoms before?
- When did your symptoms start?
- What makes your symptoms worse or better?
After taking your medical history, your doctor will perform a physical examination. If you are pregnant, he or she will likely perform a pelvic exam to check your reproductive system for problems.
Your doctor may also perform:
- blood tests, to check your blood cell counts and blood electrolyte levels
- liver function tests, to rule out dehydration and infection
- urinalysis, to test levels of different chemicals in your urine to check for dehydration
- imaging, to get a more accurate picture of certain parts of your body to investigate organic causes
How are dizziness and vomiting treated?
The type of treatment your doctor suggests for your dizziness and vomiting will depend on the underlying condition it’s caused by. For some of the less serious causes of these symptoms, he or she may prescribe antiemetics, or medications used to treat vomiting. Some examples are ondansetron (Zofran) and promethazine (Phenergan).
Meclizine (Antivert) is available over the counter and in prescription strength for dizziness. This type of medication is used treat motion sickness, nausea, and dizziness. If you’re prone to motion sickness and you’re planning to travel, your doctor may prescribe you a scopolamine (Transderm Scop) patch. This option is suitable only for adults.
If you’re taking a new medication, don’t discontinue its use unless your doctor instructs you to, even if you suspect it may be related to your dizziness and nausea.
If you’re dehydrated, your doctor will prescribe fluids. If dehydration is severe, he or she may hook you up to an intravenous (IV) drip.
Dizziness and nausea will often improve with rest. Staying hydrated and eating bland foods that don’t stimulate or upset your stomach can help. Examples include:
- dry toast
- refined grains
Other helpful home treatments include avoiding these common triggers of dizziness and nausea:
- food and cooking odors
- stuffy rooms
- flickering lights
Lie down when you start to feel dizzy or nauseous. Do not get up until your symptoms resolve, and when you do get up, rise slowly to avoid making your symptoms worse.
How can I prevent dizziness and vomiting?
You can prevent dizziness and vomiting due to low blood sugar by eating meals at regular intervals and, if you’re diabetic, avoiding taking too much insulin.
If you experience motion sickness, avoid boat trips and always sit in the front seat of a vehicle. You may also want to use a motion sickness wristband or take motion sickness medication if you know you will be taking a trip.
It’s a smart idea to avoid any foods that upset your stomach or foods that you’re allergic to. When you eat, eat slowly and rest after eating. Eat several small meals a day instead of three large meals to reduce pressure on your digestive system. Make sure you stay hydrated; drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day.
Once you feel nauseated, consume small amounts of clear, sweetened liquids such as sports drinks or ginger ale. Ice pops are another good choice. Avoid eating solid food when you’re nauseous. Lie down and rest until you feel better.