Vomiting has many possible causes but it’s often a symptom of a stomach bug (gastroenteritis).
Vomiting tends to only last for 48 hours and is often accompanied by feeling sick (nausea). It can usually be treated at home simply by drinking lots of fluids and other simple remedies. If you’re vomiting for several days, see your GP, as vomiting can be a symptom of an underlying condition.
Vomiting is your stomach’s way of responding to or getting rid of harmful substances, including bacteria, viruses, poison, excess alcohol and contaminated food. If you are vomiting and have diarrhoea, you may have gastroenteritis, food poisoning or norovirus, which can also trigger projectile vomiting. By vomiting, your body is trying to eject whatever’s at the root of the problem.
Vomiting can also be triggered by your brain. The splitting pain of a migraine is often accompanied by vomiting. The viral infection labyrinthitis, which affects the inner ear, can cause dizziness, lack of balance and vomiting. And the inner ear is also responsible for motion or travel sickness, which causes nausea and vomiting.
Many pregnant women find that they have morning sickness, which involves nausea and/or vomiting. On rare occasions, morning sickness is so severe it causes dehydration and hyperemesis gravidarum, a serious condition requiring hospital treatment.
Other causes of vomiting include:
There are many different reasons for vomiting, which usually require little, if any, medical attention.
However, vomiting can sometimes be a warning of a serious medical emergency. Seek urgent medical attention if you’re vomiting and have:
In most cases, you’ll stop vomiting after one or two days of illness. If necessary, you should be able to treat your vomiting with simple remedies or over-the-counter medication.
However, if your child is vomiting, dehydrated and has a high temperature, contact your GP urgently or seek medical attention. In addition, you should visit your GP or seek medical attention if:
Your GP will discuss your vomiting and any other symptoms with you, as well as examining your stomach and perhaps testing your blood and/or urine. You may also be asked to do a pregnancy test.
If required, your GP will refer you to a consultant for further investigations, diagnosis and treatment.
The best way to treat vomiting is to stay at home and take it easy. You can also try:
If you have morning sickness, you might also find it helps to nibble on crackers before getting out of bed. Some pregnant women find that a high protein snack before bed also helps reduce nausea and vomiting. Your GP or midwife will be able to advise you about other ways to relieve morning sickness.
For motion sickness, your GP or pharmacist should be able to recommend an over-the-counter medication you can take before travelling.
In some cases, your GP may suggest anti-sickness medication. If required, your GP will prescribe medication for any underlying conditions linked to your nausea or refer you for treatment. If you're pregnant, always check with your doctor or midwife before you take any medications.
If your vomiting is a side effect of medication, your GP or consultant may prescribe a different medication or change the dosage.