Vomiting isn’t a medical condition in itself. It’s a symptom that accompanies a variety of conditions, ranging from infection to chronic illness.
Vomiting that only lasts 1 or 2 days usually isn’t considered serious. It may just be your body’s reaction to irritation in your gut or a way of getting rid of harmful things in your stomach.
Short bouts of vomiting are usually tied to acute illnesses such as food poisoning. If you experience a cyclic pattern of vomiting over weeks or months, it may be caused by a chronic condition.
Oftentimes, its color will change as your body progresses through each stage of the underlying condition. For example, vomit as a result of the stomach flu may start as green or yellow and progress to orange.
Check out this vomit color chart to learn what each color of vomit may mean and when you should see a doctor.
|Clear||White or foamy||Green or yellow||Orange||Pink or red (bloody)||Brown||Black|
|Children: structural birth irregularities||✓|
|Children: blood clotting disorders||✓|
|Children: dietary intolerance to milk||✓|
|Concussion or brain injury||✓|
|Cyclic vomiting disorder||✓|
|Damage to throat, mouth, or gums||✓||✓||✓|
|Gastric outlet obstruction||✓|
|Injury to mouth or throat from frequent vomiting||✓||✓||✓|
Clear vomit usually occurs after you’ve already thrown up several times, effectively emptying your stomach of its food contents.
This may result from conditions such as:
In these cases, you may go on to throw up bile. Bile is usually yellow or green.
Clear vomit is also caused by:
- Gastric outlet obstruction. This occurs when your stomach is completely blocked by something such as a tumor or ulcer. When you have this type of obstruction, nothing you eat or drink can get through, including saliva or water.
- Head injury. Some people experience frequent, severe vomiting after a head injury. In severe cases, clear vomit may be a symptom of brain damage.
Your vomit may appear white if you’ve eaten something white, such as ice cream or milk.
Foamy vomit may develop if you have excess gas in your stomach. You should see a doctor if it lasts for more than a day or two.
What causes excess gas?
Conditions that cause excess gas include:
- Acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Reflux occurs when stomach acids flow back into your esophagus from the stomach. Other symptoms include a burning sensation in your throat, chest pain, and trouble swallowing.
- Gastritis. Gastritis is inflammation in the lining of your stomach. This can develop if you take certain pain relievers long term or drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Other symptoms include indigestion, fullness in the upper abdomen after eating, and nausea.
Green or yellow vomit may indicate that you’re bringing up a fluid called bile. This fluid is created by the liver and stored in your gallbladder.
Other reasons vomit may be green or yellow include:
You may see orange vomiting in the first several hours of an illness that causes vomiting. The color may persist if you continue eating between vomiting episodes, as orange is the color of partially digested foods.
Unless it persists for more than a day or two, orange vomit usually isn’t cause for concern.
Orange vomit is commonly caused by:
- Food poisoning after eating contaminated foods. Other symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever.
- Gastroenteritis or stomach flu. This virus may result from contact with a person who’s infected or from contaminated food and water. Other symptoms include a low-grade fever, muscle aches, and abdominal pain.
- Influenza or the flu. This illness may begin rather abruptly. The symptoms are similar to those of a common cold, causing a runny nose and sore throat. As it progresses, you may develop a persistent fever, fatigue, chills, and headache.
- Migraine. With migraine attacks, you experience intense headaches. They may last for a few hours or even days at a time. You may feel the urge to vomit as the migraine attack peaks or experience recurrent vomiting if the pain persists.
- Vomiting related to pregnancy (morning sickness). As the hormones build up in the body during pregnancy, you may become nauseated and vomit. Up to
70 percentof women who are pregnant experience nausea and vomiting. Although this condition is called morning sickness, vomiting may occur at any time.
You may also vomit orange as a result of:
In these cases, orange vomit is usually temporary. Your vomit will likely progress to another color.
Vomiting large amounts of blood is also called hematemesis. Although it’s often pink or bright red, it may also appear black or dark brown.
You should always see a doctor if you have pink, red, or otherwise bloody vomit.
Kid vomiting blood
In children, bloody vomit may be a symptom of:
- dietary intolerance to milk
- swallowed blood from injury to the mouth
- certain blood clotting disorders
- structural birth irregularities
Adult vomiting blood
In adults, pink or red vomit is commonly caused by:
- Damage to your throat, mouth, or gums from coughing or vomiting. Small amounts of blood may not be reason for alarm. But if you see a significant amount or it looks like coffee grounds, call a doctor to rule out more serious conditions.
- Peptic ulcers or torn blood vessels. Peptic ulcers or torn blood vessels may cause bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract. This includes your mouth, esophagus, stomach, and upper small intestine.
- Amyloidosis. This condition happens when protein builds up in your vital organs. You may experience anything from diarrhea to bloating to vomiting blood.
- Liver failure. This condition primarily affects people who have a preexisting liver disease. You may notice yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes. Other symptoms include swelling of the abdomen, pain in the upper right abdomen, and feeling sleepy or confused.
- Mallory-Weiss tear. This refers to a tear in your esophagus resulting from frequent and particularly forceful vomiting episodes.
There are two possible causes of brown vomit.
In many cases, this color is actually a shade of red, indicating blood. If it resembles light coffee grounds, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. This may be the result of peptic ulcers, amyloidosis, or another severe underlying condition.
Severe constipation can also cause brown vomiting. This condition inhibits digestion. As a result, your vomit may smell like fecal matter. Other symptoms may include bloating and severe abdominal pain. See a doctor for diagnosis.
Black may also be a shade of red, indicating bloody vomit. It might even resemble dark coffee grounds.
Your vomit may appear black if the blood has been oxidized by the acids in your stomach. The iron in your blood turns from brown to black with time. Since the blood is no longer bright red, it means that the bleeding has either stopped or is only happening in a small amount.
Black vomit is caused by the conditions that cause bloody vomit (detailed in the previous section). You should see a doctor as soon as possible to receive a diagnosis.
In some cases, your vomit may change texture simply based on the contents of your stomach or how long it’s been since you’ve eaten certain things. The texture may also change if you’ve had repeated vomiting episodes — first throwing up food and then throwing up bile and stomach acids.
These changes usually aren’t reasons to worry, but if you see anything unusual or experience other symptoms, it’s a good idea to let a doctor know.
Contact a doctor or get immediate medical attention if you see significant amounts of blood in your vomit. Remember: The color of blood may range from red to brown to black
Contact 911 or local emergency services if your bloody vomit is accompanied by dizziness, rapid or shallow breathing, or other symptoms of shock.
Green or yellow vomit may also be a symptom of a more serious condition, such as bile reflux. If you have risk factors or experience other concerning symptoms, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.
You should also see a doctor if:
- Your vomiting has lasted 48 hours and isn’t getting better.
- You’re unable to keep down any fluids.
- You have symptoms of dehydration, including dizziness or headache.
- You’ve lost weight from vomiting.
- You have diabetes. Repeated vomiting may impact your blood sugar levels.
- You have severe chest pain. This may indicate a heart attack.
You should also let a healthcare professional know if you experience frequent vomiting. There are several reasons a person can have recurrent vomiting. One example is cyclic vomiting disorder, which is caused by certain neurological conditions. With cyclic vomiting, you may throw up at the same time each day for a certain period of time.
Usually, vomiting is an irritating, but not life threatening, part of illness. The colors and textures you see in the vomit color chart may have to do with the contents of your stomach or how long you’ve been vomiting.
Some colors, such as red, brown, or black, may indicate more serious or rare conditions that require medical attention.
You should make an appointment to see a doctor if you’re seeing unusual shades or if vomiting has lasted longer than 1 or 2 days.