Health Information

Nausea and Vomiting-Adult

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Definition

Nausea is that uneasy feeling in the stomach that may make a person want to vomit. Vomiting is the act of throwing up stomach contents through the mouth.

Causes

Nausea and vomiting are symptoms caused by a condition or disease. Many illnesses can cause nausea and vomiting, like:

Serious conditions that can cause nausea and vomiting include:

Other causes include:

Risk Factors

Having a condition or disease that can cause nausea or vomiting is a risk factor.

Symptoms

In some cases, you may have other symptoms in addition to nausea and vomiting.

If you have any of these symptoms, call for medical help right away:

  • Blood in the vomit
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Feeling very tired
  • Confusion
  • Not feeling alert
  • Severe abdominal pain or chest pain
  • Fever over 101°F (38°C)
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you questions, like:

  • How long have you felt nauseous?
  • How long has the vomiting occurred?
  • Does the vomiting happen near mealtime?
  • Are you taking any medications?
  • Have you traveled recently?
  • Have you had any injuries to your head?
  • Have you lost any weight?
  • How often have you been urinating? Vomiting may cause dehydration and low urine output.

A physical exam will be done.

Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Pregnancy test in women

Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

Ultrasound of the Abdomen
Nucleus factsheet image
The doctor uses a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which uses sound waves to make images of your abdomen.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Treatment

In some cases, you may be able to manage nausea and vomiting at home.

Strategies to Control Nausea

  • Drink clear liquids such as water, juice, or broth.
  • Eat light foods that do not further upset your stomach.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Eat smaller meals.
  • Eat more often.
  • Rest after eating.
  • Eat foods from all the food groups as much as you are able. This will ensure that you get proper nutrition.

Strategies to Control Vomiting

  • Rest.
  • Slowly build your way up to drinking larger amounts of clear liquids such as water, juice, or broth.
  • Do not eat solid foods until vomiting has passed.
  • Do not stop taking your medications unless advised by your doctor.
  • Also, ask your doctor if there are over-the-counter medications that may help relieve your symptoms.

Vomiting may cause you to become dehydrated. You may need to drink an oral rehydrating solution (ORS) if vomiting makes it difficult for you to stay properly hydrated.

There may be times when symptoms will need to be treated by your doctor. This may be the case if nausea and vomiting are caused by surgery, cancer therapy, pregnancy, or motion sickness. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medications to relieve the symptoms.

Prevention

To help reduce your chance of experiencing nausea or vomiting, take the following steps:

  • Eat small meals throughout the day.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Rest after eating.
  • Drink liquids between meals, instead of during meals.
  • Always wash your hands before eating.
  • Make sure you properly handle food .

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Peter Lucas, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2013 -
  • Update Date: 12/16/2013 -
  • American Academy of Family Physicians

    http://familydoctor.org

  • National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

    http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov

  • Canadian Association of Gastroenterology

    http://www.cag-acg.org

  • Canadian Digestive Health Foundation

    http://www.cdhf.ca

  • Kuver R, Sheffield JV, McDonald GB. Nausea and vomiting in adolescents and adults. University of Washington, Division of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://www.uwgi.org/guidelines/ch%5F01/ch01txt.htm. Accessed December 16, 2013.

  • Nausea and vomiting. FamilyDoctor.org website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/529.html. Accessed December 16, 2013.

  • Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/. Updated October 10, 2013. Accessed December 16, 2013.