Nausea and Vomiting—Adult
Nausea is that uneasy feeling in the stomach that may make a person want to vomit. Vomiting is the act of throwing up stomach contents through the mouth.
Nausea and vomiting are symptoms caused by a condition or disease. Many illnesses can cause nausea and vomiting. Examples include:
Serious conditions that can cause nausea and vomiting include:
- Heart attack
- Kidney or liver disorders
- Nervous system disorders
- Cancer, including brain tumors
- Brain disorders
- Appendicitis —inflammation of the appendix
- Migraine headache
- Intestinal obstruction
Other causes include:
Having a condition or disease that can cause nausea or vomiting is a risk factor.
In some cases, you may have other symptoms in addition to nausea and vomiting.
If you have any of these symptoms, call for medical help right away:
- Blood in the vomit
- Chest pain
- Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
- Severe headache
- Stiff neck
- Feeling very tired
- Not feeling alert
- Severe abdominal pain or chest pain
- Fever over 101°F (38°C)
- Severe diarrhea
- Rapid breathing or heartbeat
You will be asked the following questions:
- How long have you felt nauseous?
- How long has the vomiting occurred?
- Does the vomiting happen near mealtime?
- Are you taking any medications?
- 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 dehydration and low urine output.
A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- Pregnancy test in women
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
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 liquids such as water, juice, or broth.
- Eat light foods that do not further upset your stomach.
- Eat and drink slowly.
- Eat smaller meals.
- Eat more often.
- Rest after eating.
- Eat foods from all the food groups as much as you are able. This will ensure that you get proper nutrition.
Strategies to Control Vomiting
- Rest when you need to.
- Slowly build your way up to drinking larger amounts of clear liquids such as water, juice, or broth.
- Do not eat solid foods until vomiting has passed.
- Do not stop taking your medications unless advised by your doctor.
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 medications to relieve the symptoms.
To help reduce your chances of nausea or vomiting:
- Eat small meals throughout the day.
- Eat slowly.
- Rest after eating.
- Drink liquids between meals, instead of during meals.
- Always wash your hands before eating, and after using the bathroom and coming into contact with people who are sick.
- Make sure you properly handle food.
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
Kuver R, Sheffield JV, McDonald GB. Nausea and vomiting. Division of Gastroenterology University of Washington website. Available at: http://www.uwgi.org/guidelines/Chapters/ch_01/ch01.htm. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Nausea and vomiting. American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: http://patients.gi.org/topics/nausea-and-vomiting. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Nausea and vomiting. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/symptom/nausea-and-vomiting. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T900007/Nausea-and-vomiting-in-adults. Updated September 13, 2017. Accessed December 15, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcie L. Sidman, MD Last Updated: 12/15/2017