Most cases of nausea and vomiting are harmless and resolve on their own. However, sometimes, more serious conditions cause these symptoms. The range of conditions that may cause nausea and vomiting includes:
- Over indulgence, especially with alcohol
- Infection from viruses or bacteria (sometimes referred to as stomach flu or food poisoning)
- Stress or nervousness
- Medications, such as certain pain medicines and antibiotics
- Migraine headache
- Head injury/concussion
- Motion sickness
- Heavy post nasal drip
Nausea and vomiting can come on very suddenly and therefore can be very difficult to prevent.
However, the following measures may help:
- To decrease your risk of exposure to contaminated foods, avoid communal foods in large settings, especially if people are using their hands, rather than tools, to serve the food.
- Wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom and before touching food to decrease the spread of organisms that may lead to diarrhea.
- If you prepare food for yourself or others, learn safe food handling techniques, especially for high-risk foods such as raw chicken.
- Learn techniques to manage emotional stress and anxiety, a common cause of nausea (functional dyspepsia).
- Avoid drinking untreated water, which may contain organisms that cause vomiting. This is especially important when you visit foreign countries or go camping.
- Ask your medical provider if any medications you are taking may be causing nausea or vomiting.
- Contact your medical provider for preventative medicines if you become carsick or seasick easily.
To treat minor pain:
- If vomiting, wait at least two hours before trying to eat or drink anything. If you are desperately thirsty, try ice chips. Vomiting alone seldom causes significant dehydration. Putting anything into your stomach is likely to worsen your nausea and prolong vomiting.
- Once you are ready, drink small, frequent sips of water, apple juice, coconut water or oral rehydration solution.
- Avoid eating until you feel better and your appetite starts to return. Then, begin with mild foods such as toast, dry crackers, rice, and applesauce.
- Rest, Movement can worsen vomiting.
- Stop all over the counter medicines you feel may be causing the vomiting. If you think a prescription medicine may be the cause, it is optimal to speak with the prescriber prior to discontinuing it.
Seek medical attention if:
- Vomiting is uncontrollable or worsening.
- Vomiting after a recent head injury, collision, fall or other traumatic event.
- Vomiting associated with severe headache, light sensitivity, fever, confusion, severe abdominal pain and/or other worrisome signs or symptoms.
- Vomiting of blood or a substance that looks like coffee grounds