Nausea and Vomiting—Adult
Pronounced: nah-zhuh and vah-meh-ting
Marjorie Montemayor-Quellenberg, MA
is that uneasy feeling in the stomach that may make a person want to vomit.
is the act of throwing up stomach contents through the mouth.
Nausea and vomiting can easily be treated. Sometimes the symptoms will go away on their own. However, if you think the symptoms are worsening or are accompanied by other
symptoms, contact your doctor.
Nausea and vomiting are symptoms caused by a condition or disease. Many illnesses can cause nausea and vomiting, like:
Serious conditions that can cause nausea and vomiting include:
Other causes include:
In some cases, you may have other symptoms in addition to nausea and vomiting.
If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately:
- Blood in the vomit
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Feeling very tired
- Not feeling alert
- Severe belly pain or chest pain
- Fever over 101°F (38°C)
- Vey fast breathing or pulse
Your doctor will ask you questions, like:
- How long have you felt nauseous?
- How long has the vomiting occurred?
- Does the vomiting happen near mealtime?
- Are you taking any medicines?
- Have you traveled recently?
- Have you had any injuries to your head?
- Have you lost any weight?
How often have you been urinating? (Vomiting may cause
and low urine output.)
He may also do a medical history and physical exam, as well as tests. Tests may include:
- Blood tests
of the abdomen—a test that uses radiation to take pictures of structures inside the abdomen
Computed tomography (CT) scan
—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to take pictures of structures inside the abdomen
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
—a test that uses magnetic waves to take pictures of structures inside the abdomen
—a test that uses sound waves to examine the abdomen
- Pregnancy test (females only)
Ultrasound of the Abdomen
The doctor uses a hand-held instrument called a transducer, which uses sound waves to make images of your abdomen.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
In some cases, you may be able to manage nausea and vomiting at home.
Strategies to Control Nausea
- Drink clear (eg, water, juice) or cold drinks.
- Eat light foods that do not further upset your stomach.
- Eat and drink slowly.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Eat more often.
- Rest after eating.
- Do not brush your teeth after eating.
Eat foods from all the
as much as you are able. This will ensure that you get proper nutrition.
Strategies to Control Vomiting
- Slowly build your way up to drinking larger amounts of clear liquids (eg, water, juice).
- Do not eat solid foods until vomiting has passed.
- If your doctor recommends it, stop taking all medicines by mouth. Be sure to check with your doctor first before you do this.
- Also, ask your doctor if there are over-the-counter medicines that may help relieve your symptoms.
Vomiting may cause you to become dehydrated. You may need to drink an oral rehydrating solution (ORS) if vomiting makes it difficult for you to stay properly hydrated.
There may be times when symptoms will need to be treated by your doctor. This may be the case if nausea and vomiting are caused by surgery, cancer therapy, pregnancy, or motion sickness. Your doctor may be able to prescribe medicines to relieve the symptoms.
Some examples of prescribed medicines for nausea and vomiting include:
To help reduce your chance of experiencing nausea or vomiting, take the following steps:
- Eat small meals throughout the day.
- Eat slowly.
- Try eating foods that are cold or at room temperature. Sometimes the smell of hot or warm foods can make a person feel nauseous.
- Rest after eating. When resting, try keeping your head 12 inches (30.5 centimeters) above your feet.
- Drink liquids between meals, instead of during meals.
Avoid getting an illness that can cause nausea and vomiting by
washing your hands
before eating, and making sure you
properly handle food.
American Academy of Family Physicians
National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
American Academy of Family Physicians.
Family Health & Medical Guide
. Dallas, TX: Word Publishing; 1996.
Kuver R, Sheffield JV, McDonald GB. Nausea and vomiting in adolescents and adults. University of Washington, Division of Gastroenterology website. Available at:
. Accessed July 19, 2011.
Nausea and vomiting. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
. Updated December 24, 2009. Accessed July 19, 2011.
Nausea and vomiting. FamilyDoctor.org website. Available at:
. Accessed July 19, 2011.
Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
. Updated April 29, 2011. Accessed July 20, 2011.
Last reviewed September 2012 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 9/26/2012