Nausea and Vomiting

Acute nausea and vomiting starts suddenly, gets worse quickly, and lasts a short time.

What are some common causes of acute nausea and vomiting?

  • Food poisoning
  • Large amounts of alcohol
  • Certain medicines, too much of any medicine, or stopping a regular medicine too quickly
  • Early stages of pregnancy
  • Infection in the stomach, intestines, or other organs
  • Trauma to the head
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Gastroparesis (a condition that prevents your stomach from emptying properly)
  • Metabolic disorders, such as uremia or adrenal insufficiency

What causes acute nausea and vomiting with stomach pain?

  • Inflammation of the appendix, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, or other organs
  • Gallstones
  • Bacteria or a parasite in the digestive system
  • Heart attack
  • Stomach ulcers, or bowel blockage or twisting

What causes acute nausea and vomiting with other signs and symptoms?

You may be sweating and have pale skin, problems with digestion, and more saliva than usual. These signs and symptoms may be caused by the following:

  • Problems with your heart rate, blood flow to your heart muscle, blood pressure, or stomach fluid
  • Increased pressure or bleeding in the brain
  • Swelling of the tissue covering the brain
  • Migraine or seizures
  • Inner ear disorders that cause problems with balance

How is the cause of acute nausea and vomiting diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your medical history. Tell your provider about other signs and symptoms you have. Also tell your provider when you last had nausea and vomiting and how long it continued. Include if it happened before, during, or after a meal, and how much you ate. Your provider will need to know how much came out when you vomited, and if it was fast and forceful. Tell your provider if your vomit smelled like bowel movement or had blood or food in it. Tell your provider if the vomit was bright yellow. You may need any of the following:

  • Blood tests may be used to check for infection or inflammation.
  • X-ray, CT, or MRI pictures may be used to find an injury or blockage.

How may acute nausea and vomiting be treated?

The first goal of treatment for nausea and vomiting is to prevent or treat dehydration. Treatment also depends on the cause of the nausea and vomiting. Any medical condition causing your nausea and vomiting will also be treated. Treatment is also aimed at stopping or preventing your signs and symptoms. You may need one or more of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to calm your stomach and stop your vomiting. You may also need medicines to help you feel more relaxed or to stop nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness. Gastrointestinal stimulants may be used to help empty your stomach and bowels. This can help decrease your nausea and vomiting.
  • IV fluids may be given to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. This may be needed it you cannot drink liquids.
  • Nasogastric (NG) tube: An NG tube is put into your nose, and passes down your throat until it reaches your stomach. Food and medicine may be given through an NG tube if you cannot take anything by mouth. The tube may instead be attached to suction if healthcare providers need to keep your stomach empty.

What can I do to prevent or manage acute nausea and vomiting?

  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may upset or irritate your stomach. Too much alcohol can also cause acute nausea and vomiting.
  • Control stress. Headaches due to stress may cause nausea and vomiting. Find ways to relax and manage your stress. Get more rest and sleep.
  • Drink more liquids as directed. Vomiting can lead to dehydration. It is important to drink more liquids to help replace lost body fluids. Ask your healthcare provider how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Your provider may recommend that you drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). ORS contains water, salts, and sugar that are needed to replace the lost body fluids. Ask what kind of ORS to use, how much to drink, and where to get it.
  • Eat smaller meals, more often. Eat small amounts of food every 2 to 3 hours, even if you are not hungry. Food in your stomach may decrease your nausea.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider before you take over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. These medicines can cause serious problems if you use certain other medicines, or you have a medical condition. You may have problems if you use too much or use them for longer than the label says. Follow directions on the label carefully.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You see blood in your vomit or your bowel movements.
  • You have sudden, severe pain in your chest and upper abdomen after hard vomiting or retching.
  • You have swelling in your neck and chest.
  • You are dizzy, cold, and thirsty, and your eyes and mouth are dry.
  • You are urinating very little or not at all.
  • You have muscle weakness, leg cramps, and trouble breathing.
  • Your heart is beating much faster than normal.
  • You continue to vomit for more than 48 hours.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have frequent dry heaves (vomiting but nothing comes out).
  • Your nausea and vomiting does not get better or go away after you use medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.