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What is vomiting?

Vomiting is the forcible discharge of stomach contents through the mouth. It may also be called “throwing up”. Many instances of vomiting are preceded by nausea, which is the feeling that you are about to vomit or a feeling of uneasiness in the stomach.

What causes vomiting?

There are numerous causes of vomiting. The timing of the vomiting can give an idea of the cause, for example, vomiting that occurs within a few hours of a meal may be caused by food poisoning, gastritis (stomach inflammation), or an ulcer.

Common causes of vomiting include:

  • Alcohol excess
  • Anxiety
  • An eating disorder such as bulimia
  • Appendicitis
  • Bowel obstruction
  • Brain tumor
  • cancer
  • Fear
  • Food poisoning
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Head injury
  • Heart attack
  • Infections (eg, giardia, influenza, norovirus)
  • Intense pain
  • Medications or some treatments (eg, chemotherapy, tramadol)
  • Overeating
  • Poisoning
  • Pregnancy, especially the first trimester
  • A reaction to certain smells or odors
  • Slow stomach emptying (gastroparesis)
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Travel sickness or seasickness.

Children are more prone to vomiting than adults and vomiting may occur from any illness where they have a high fever or just from coughing.

What are the symptoms of vomiting?

In addition to expelling the contents of the stomach through the mouth, other symptoms that may occur in people with vomiting include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Confusion
  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Decreased urination
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive sweating
  • Fainting
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Lightheadedness
  • Sleepiness.

Dehydration can be particularly problematic, especially in children. Symptoms of dehydration include dry lips and mouth, decreased urination, excessive sleepiness, fast pulse, sunken eyes, and rapid breathing. Babies may have a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of the baby's head).

When should i see a doctor for vomiting?

See your doctor if you have vomiting:

  • And there is a possibility you could be pregnant
  • And you are dehydrated
  • And have had a head injury
  • That lasts for more than a few days
  • That is severe and not helped by home treatments.

Children under the age of six who have vomiting for more than a few hours should always be taken to a doctor. Older children should be taken to a doctor if they have diarrhea combined with vomiting, the vomiting lasts more than 24 hours, if there are any signs of dehydration, if they have a high fever or haven’t urinated for six hours.

How is vomiting treated?

Treatment for vomiting depends on the cause. Most cases will resolve by themselves and many just require supportive therapy, such as ensuring a good fluid intake, bland food to settle the stomach, and medications (such as antiemetics) to control the vomiting. Some people may require hospitalization for the treatment of severe dehydration.