Know Your Body: What Causes Vomiting And When To Go To A Doctor?


There are times when you feel like throwing up, especially when traveling by car or when you eat too much. Medically it is termed as nausea, the feeling that you usually get before vomiting. But every time you feel nauseous, you may not necessarily vomit and it’s not always nausea that leads to vomiting. So what triggers nausea or vomiting? How often can you experience this feeling?  Is it ok to feel nauseated or vomit when you are sick? When should you consult a doctor for vomiting? When is it not okay to treat this common symptom by using antiemetics or home remedies? Read on to find out the answers to this common symptom.

What Causes Vomiting?

There are many causes of vomiting right from feeling nauseated when traveling by car or bus or throwing up after loading up on booze at a party to suffering from a food infection. However, not all the causes of vomiting are a cause of concern. But knowing about the causes of this common symptom can help you to treat it and prevent any major health complications. Here are some of the common causes of nausea and/or vomiting you should be aware of!

Motion sickness: This can happen if you are traveling by car, boat, bus or anything that moves. The exact cause of motion sickness is not known but it is known to mostly cause nausea which in some cases is followed by vomiting.

Food poisoning: If you eat food which is contaminated or stale, it can lead to food poisoning. This is caused due to bacteria that is present in the food gets multiplied and when consumed causes the production of toxins in the body. If left ignored, it can irritate the lining of the stomach and cause other symptoms such as fever and weakness.

Stomach problems: If the food you eat doesn’t properly pass through the stomach or intestine or if it gets blocked in the intestine, it can give rise to nausea or vomiting.  Also, any infection of the stomach or intestine can also lead to this symptom.

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Gastrointestinal Esophageal Disease (GERD): It is a condition that causes the esophageal muscles to relax at the wrong time causing the gastric juices to turn back into the esophagus. It is a common stomach problem which affects the ability to digest food and thus, increases the risk of throwing up.

Migraine: Some people suffering from a migraine headache also experience nausea or vomiting. This can happen if the person comes in contact with any factors which can trigger a migraine attack such as strong perfume or coffee. Knowing about these triggers of headache can help to prevent migraine attack and also cause you to throw up.

Medicines: It goes without saying that certain medicines can lead to nausea or vomiting. These include antibiotics, vitamins, birth control pills, analgesics, and antidepressants. So talk to your doctor if you feel nauseated after taking any medications as he might consider changing the medications.

Alcohol: Excessive consumption of alcohol can make you throw up. Anyone who has ever experienced a hangover might know how alcohol intake can lead to severe bouts of vomiting in some people.

Pregnancy: Nausea or vomiting, commonly known as morning sickness, is one of the common symptoms of pregnancy. It is seen in the early stages of pregnancy and in around half of the pregnant women.

In most cases, it is not harmful. However, it could be a sign of an underlying disease which is the reason it should never be ignored. Vomiting can be seen in several serious health problems such as concussions (head injury), meningitis (inflammation of the brain tissue), appendicitis, and brain tumors.

Vomiting: When To See A Doctor?

If you feel nauseated for more than two to three days or if your symptoms are severe, then it is a sign to consult your doctor immediately. Also if the home remedies or treatment are not working or if you have suffered a head injury or infection recently which could be responsible for vomiting. In the case of infants or kids below five years of age, if it lasts for more than 3-4 hours or if the child suffers from diarrhea or dehydration, it is wise to consult a doctor. For kids above five years of age, vomiting which lasts more than a day followed by high fever or signs of dehydration is a sign of concern and needs urgent medical attention.

It is also advised that you rush to a hospital if you spot any of these signs:

-Have chest or stomach pain along with vomiting

-Vomit blood or something that looks like coffee grounds

-Have bloody or black-colored stools

-Have a high fever

-Have a headache or stiff neck

-Feel excessive fatigue or trouble getting up

-Show signs of dehydration (like muscle cramps, confusion, dark urine, no urine for more than 5 hours and dry mouth)

The treatment for vomiting involves increasing the intake of water or clear fluids slowly. It is wise to avoid solid foods until the episodes of throwing up have subsided. The use of oral rehydration solution (ORS) in both kids and adults can help restore the fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. For pregnant women, morning sickness can be dealt with eating crackers or high protein snack the first thing in the morning. For other conditions such as food poisoning or cancer use of medications can help. Consult your doctor to know the right medications and never self-medicate.

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If you feel nauseous then take small sips of clear, sweetened drinks such as fruit juices or sodas as it helps to relieve the feeling. If you are traveling and feel the urge to throw up, then either rest in a sitting position or lie down as this can provide some relief. Never read while sitting in a vehicle as it can aggravate nausea if you already suffer from motion sickness. Also, eat small meals and well before hitting the bed. Opt for freshly prepared food and not oily or processed food when you suffer from vomiting. These simple tips can help you to prevent and ease nausea and puking.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

Feeling Nauseated? 6 Foods That You Can Try For Instant Relief!

Things To Keep In Mind If Your Child Has Vomiting


O’Brien C. Nausea and vomiting. Can Fam Physician. 2008 Jun;54(6):861-3. Becker DE. Nausea, vomiting, and hiccups: a review of mechanisms and treatment. Anesth Prog. 2010 Winter;57(4):150-6; quiz 157.

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