Vomiting in adults is a common symptom that can be caused by a variety of conditions ranging from overeating to a severe illness. It is a reflex activity where the muscular contractions of the stomach force the gastric contents up through the esophagus and out of the mouth.

Vomiting can be acute, happening suddenly and lasting for less than a day, or chronic, where it lasts longer. While it is typically not dangerous, repeated vomiting can lead to dehydration and an imbalance of electrolytes in the body.

The causes can be varied. Some common causes include food poisoning, stomach flu, pregnancy, migraines, some medications, and alcohol consumption. More serious causes include appendicitis, kidney or liver disorders, brain tumors or injuries, and certain forms of cancer.

Vomiting in adults

It is also important to note that vomiting in adults could be a symptom of an underlying disease. Therefore, if vomiting persists or is accompanied by other severe symptoms, medical attention should be sought.

Causes of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting in adults can be caused by a variety of reasons:

1. Gastrointestinal Conditions: These issues relate to the digestive system and include food poisoning, stomach flu, gastroenteritis, peptic ulcers, gastritis, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

2. Pregnancy: Morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy often leads to vomiting.

3. Migraine Headaches: Some people may experience vomiting along with severe headaches during a migraine attack.

4. Medications: Certain medications, especially chemotherapy drugs, can lead to vomiting.

5. Alcohol and Drugs: Overuse or abuse of these substances can cause nausea and vomiting.

6. Overeating: Consuming large amounts of food, or eating too quickly can also cause vomiting.

7. General Anesthesia: Post-surgery, some people may vomit due to the effects of anesthesia.

8. Gallbladder Disease: Issues with the gallbladder can lead to vomiting.

9. Emotional Stress or Fear: Intense fear or anxiety can also trigger vomiting.

10. Viral Infections: Not only stomach-based infections, but general viral illnesses can cause nausea and vomiting.

11: Food Allergies or Intolerance: Some people may vomit when they consume foods they are allergic or intolerant to, such as lactose or gluten.

12. Concussions or Brain Injuries: These serious conditions can cause nausea and vomiting.

Remember, chronic or severe vomiting can lead to dehydration and other serious health problems, so it’s important to seek medical attention if it persists.

Risk Factors of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting in adults can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

1. Gastroenteritis: This is an inflammation of the stomach and intestines usually caused by a viral or bacterial infection. It can lead to nausea and vomiting.

2. Pregnancy: Morning sickness during the early stages of pregnancy often involves nausea and vomiting.

3. Migraines: Some people may experience nausea or vomiting during a migraine attack.

4. Medications: Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, can cause nausea and vomiting.

5. Alcohol and drug use: Excessive alcohol or certain drugs can irritate the stomach lining and cause vomiting.

6. Food poisoning: Consuming contaminated or spoiled food can result in food poisoning, which often includes vomiting.

7. Gallbladder disease: This condition can cause nausea and vomiting, particularly after a fatty meal.

8. Gastroparesis: A condition that slows stomach emptying, often seen in people with diabetes, leading to nausea and vomiting.

9. Peptic ulcers: Open sores that develop on the inside lining of your stomach causing severe pain and vomiting.

10. Bulimia Nervosa: An eating disorder where a person engages in recurrent episodes of binge eating followed by purging, which often includes self-induced vomiting.

11. Other severe illnesses such as kidney or liver disorders, certain forms of cancer, or pancreatitis.

Risk factors include certain lifestyle choices such as alcohol or drug use, taking certain medications, having certain underlying health conditions, or being pregnant. The risk of vomiting also increases with things like exposure to certain viruses or bacteria, food poisoning, or certain illnesses.

Signs and Symptoms of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting is the involuntary, forceful expulsion of the contents of your stomach through the mouth and sometimes the nose. Common signs and symptoms of vomiting in adults include:

1. Nausea: This might be a sensation of unease and discomfort in the upper stomach with an urge to vomit. It often precedes vomiting.

2. Increased Salivation: Also known as hypersalivation, this can happen suddenly right before vomiting as your body prepares to purge what’s upsetting it.

3. Dizziness or Faintness: This is due to dehydration caused by the loss of fluids and essential minerals during vomiting.

4. Rapid heartbeat: This can happen due to the sudden loss of fluids and changes in body pressure.

5. Abdominal pain or discomfort: You may feel pain or discomfort in the stomach area due to muscle contractions and the high pressure placed on the abdomen during vomiting.

6. Fever or Headache: This may occur if the vomiting is a symptom of an underlying condition like an infection.

7. Diarrhea: Often, gastrointestinal issues can cause both vomiting and diarrhea.

8. Dehydration: Signs of dehydration include excessive thirst, dry mouth, deep yellow urine or little or no urine, severe weakness, dizziness or lightheadedness.

9. Chills or Sweating: These could be accompanying symptoms in cases of food poisoning, infections or other illnesses.

If an adult is persistently vomiting, and exhibits symptoms such as chest or stomach pain, confusion, severe drowsiness, or blood in their vomit, it is advised to get immediate medical attention. These could be signs of a more serious condition.

Diagnosis Vomiting in adults

Vomiting in adults can be a symptom of a wide range of conditions, some benign and some serious. It is generally characterized by the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through the mouth, often accompanied by nausea.

Common causes include food poisoning, viral infections (like the stomach flu), pregnancy, and certain medications or treatments (like chemotherapy). Alcohol and certain drugs can also trigger vomiting. More serious causes can include appendicitis, gallbladder disease, brain injuries, and certain types of cancer.

Diagnosing the cause of vomiting often involves a review of symptoms, a physical examination, and possibly laboratory tests or imaging studies. If you’re an adult who has been vomiting persistently, it’s important to seek medical attention. Your healthcare provider can determine the cause and recommend appropriate treatment.

Acute vomiting often resolves on its own without treatment, but chronic or severe vomiting may require medical intervention to prevent complications like dehydration and malnutrition. It’s particularly important to seek immediate medical attention if vomiting is accompanied by symptoms like severe abdominal pain, fever, rapid breathing or heartbeat, confusion, or lethargy.

Treatment of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting in adults can be a symptom of a range of conditions, from food poisoning to migraine. Therefore, the treatment for vomiting varies depending on the underlying cause. Nevertheless, some general recommendations and treatment options include:

1. Hydration: Vomiting can lead to dehydration due to loss of fluids and electrolytes. Therefore, adults should try to sip small amounts of water or suck ice chips if they cannot keep down larger amounts of fluid. Rehydration solutions or sports drinks can be beneficial.

2. Rest: Resting can help the body recover, reduce nausea, and prevent further vomiting.

3. Dietary changes: For instance, a diet including bland foods like rice, crackers or bananas can help. Food should be reintroduced slowly, starting with bland, easy-to-digest food.

4. Over-the-counter medication: There are over-the-counter (OTC) medicines like Bismuth subsalicylate or Antihistamines that could help alleviate vomiting.

5. Prescription medication: If vomiting is severe or persistent, a healthcare professional may prescribe antiemetic drugs such as ondansetron or promethazine.

6. Treating the underlying cause: For instance, if the vomiting is due to food poisoning, it may be necessary to let it run its course. However, if the vomiting is a symptom of another condition like migraine, treating the underlying condition should alleviate the vomiting.

Remember that self-medication can be risky, so it’s always best to consult with a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen. Elderly people, pregnant women, and people with other underlying health conditions should seek medical advice as soon as possible.

Medications commonly used for Vomiting in adults

Many medications can be used to treat or manage vomiting in adults. Here’s an overview of some common ones:

1. Antiemetics: These are drugs specifically designed to treat nausea and vomiting.

Ondansetron (Zofran): This drug works by blocking the action of serotonin, a natural substance that may cause nausea and vomiting.

Promethazine (Phenergan): It’s an antihistamine that reduces the effects of the natural chemical histamine in the body. Histamine can produce symptoms of itching, sneezing, runny nose, and watery eyes.

Prochlorperazine (Compazine): This medication is classified as an anti-nausea (antiemetic) drug.

2. Antihistamines: Certain types of antihistamines can help relieve nausea and vomiting. These include:

Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine): This is primarily used to prevent and treat motion sickness.

Meclizine (Antivert, Bonine): It is an antihistamine that is used to prevent and treat nausea, vomiting, and dizziness caused by motion sickness.

3. Dopamine antagonists: These drugs block dopamine receptors, which can lead to a reduction in nausea and vomiting. Examples include:

Metoclopramide (Reglan): This medication works by increasing the movements or contractions of the stomach and intestines.

Haloperidol (Haldol): Generally used as an antipsychotic drug, but is sometimes given off-label to treat severe nausea and vomiting.

4. Serotonin antagonists: These medications, such as Zofran, block serotonin receptors, leading to decreased nausea and vomiting.

Note: These medications can have side effects, and some may not be suitable for people with certain health conditions or taking certain other medications. Always seek a healthcare professional’s advice before starting any new medication for vomiting or any other condition.

Also, persistent vomiting can be a sign of a serious condition and anyone experiencing this should seek immediate medical attention.

Prevention of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting can be prevented or reduced in adults through the following methods:

1. Hydration: Avoid becoming dehydrated by sipping small amounts of clear liquids, such as water or broth. Sucking on ice chips might also help.

2. Diet: Try to eat light, bland foods (such as rice or bananas), avoiding spicy or fatty foods. When you’re nauseated, eat slowly and eat smaller, more frequent meals.

3. Avoid triggers: Stay away from foods or smells that trigger your nausea. If you’re sick with a gastrointestinal illness, avoid contact with others who are sick to lessen your risk.

4. Medication: Over the counter medication like antihistamines and bismuth subsalicylate can help stop nausea and vomiting. Prescription drugs are also available for severe cases. However, always see a doctor for advice before starting medication.

5. Ginger: This may help reduce symptoms of nausea and vomiting. It can be taken as a tea, a capsule or candy.’

Vomiting in adults

6. Acupressure and Acupuncture: These are alternative therapy methods known to often provide relief from nausea and vomiting.

7. Rest: Sometimes, simple rest and avoiding physical activity immediately after eating can help reduce vomiting.

Remember timing and pacing when eating and drinking. Do not rush meals or drink liquids quickly as it may upset the stomach.

However, persistent and uncontrolled vomiting can lead to severe dehydration and should be attended to by a health professional immediately. If your symptoms persist or worsen, you should seek medical attention.

FAQ’s about Vomiting in adults

1. What Causes Vomiting in Adults?
There are numerous causes of vomiting, which include foodborne illnesses (food poisoning), infections, pregnancy, motion sickness, certain medical treatments, gallbladder disease, stomach ulcers, some forms of cancer, appendicitis, migraines and even some medications.

2. Is Vomiting Serious?
While it can feel unpleasant, vomiting is not always a cause for concern. Sometimes it is the body’s way of expelling something it perceives as harmful. However, if vomiting persists for over 24 hours, if there is blood in the vomit, or if it is accompanied by severe pain, it can be a sign of a more serious condition and urgent medical attention should be sought.

3. What Can You Do at Home to Ease the Discomfort from Vomiting?
Resting and staying hydrated is crucial. You can slowly drink small amounts of clear, noncarbonated liquids like water, broth, or electrolyte solutions. Avoid solid foods until the vomiting stops. When reintroducing foods, start with bland and easily digestible ones, like toast or rice

4. How can You Prevent Dehydration from Vomiting?
Water is the best way but it might be hard on your stomach. You can also suck on ice chips, drink sports drinks, sip on clear broths, or consume drinks without caffeine. Avoid acidic juices as they may upset your stomach further.

5. When Should You See a Doctor?
You should see a doctor if you are unable to keep liquids down for 24 hours, vomit for more than 24 hours, you have signs of dehydration such as excessive thirst, dry mouth, dark yellow urine, or little to no urine, severe abdominal pain or vomiting blood.

Remember, vomiting can be a symptom of many illnesses and it is essential to seek help if you’re unsure about anything. You should always follow your healthcare provider’s advice.

Useful links

Vomiting in adults can occur due to various conditions ranging from temporary illness to serious underlying conditions. Medical research journals provide a wealth of quality information on this topic. Here are few research papers and abstracts which might provide more details:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31241819/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17885699/

Remember, while researching and reading from these sources can provide good insights, it’s crucial to seek medical attention when vomiting is persistent, severe or accompanied by other worrying symptoms. A healthcare provider will be able to diagnose and treat the condition more accurately.

Complications of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting in adults can be a symptom of a wide range of conditions, from minor illnesses like food poisoning and stomach bugs to more serious health conditions such as appendicitis, pancreatitis, or brain disorders.

While occasional vomiting may not lead to serious health issues, frequent vomiting can lead to a plethora of complications, including:

1. Dehydration: This is the most common complication. Water and electrolytes (body salts) are lost through vomiting, leading to dizziness, weakness and kidney problems. Severe cases may require hospitalization for rehydration with IV fluids.

2. Aspiration: This is when vomit is inhaled into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia, a potentially life-threatening condition.

3. Electrolyte Imbalance: Prolonged vomiting can result in a significant loss of vital minerals and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and calcium. This can lead to heart problems, muscle weakness, or neurological complications like seizures.

4. Esophagus Damage: Frequent vomiting can cause the lower esophageal sphincter to weaken, leading to acid reflux or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Not only uncomfortable, GERD can cause esophagitis, Barrett’s esophagus, or even esophageal cancer.

5. Gastric Rupture: Though very rare, intense and prolonged vomiting can lead to rupture of the gastric wall, which is a life-threatening condition that needs emergency surgery.

6. Tooth Decay: Stomach acid in the vomit can damage tooth enamel leading to decay.

7. Malnutrition: Chronic vomiting can lead to malnutrition, which, in time, can damage almost every system in the body.

It is crucial to remember that vomiting is not a disease itself, rather a symptom of an underlying condition. It is advised to seek immediate medical attention if vomiting persists for an extended period of time, if the vomit contains blood, or if it is accompanied by severe abdominal pain, high fever, or signs of dehydration, like infrequent urination, dry mouth, and dizziness.

Home remedies of Vomiting in adults

Vomiting can be caused by a wide range of conditions, including stomach flu, food poisoning, pregnancy, motion sickness, and overeating. Here are few simple home remedies that might help:

1. Stay Hydrated: Vomiting can lead to dehydration quickly, so it’s important to drink water or suck on ice cubes to keep your body hydrated.

2. Ginger: Ginger has been used as a common natural remedy for nausea and vomiting for centuries. You can consume ginger in various forms, including ginger tea, ginger ale, ginger candies, or ginger capsules.

3. Rest: Resting and keeping your head elevated can help your body fight off whatever is causing the vomiting.

4. BRAT Diet: BRAT stands for Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. These foods are bland and gentle on the stomach, providing relief from nausea and vomiting.

5. Peppermint: The aroma of peppermint is believed to soothe an upset stomach. You can try peppermint tea, peppermint oil, or even sniffing a peppermint candy.

6. Lemon: The smell and flavor of lemon can also help relieve nausea. Try drinking a warm cup of water with lemon juice or inhaling the scent of a fresh-cut lemon.

7. Slowly Sip Clear or Ice-Cold Drinks: Clear or ice-cold drinks can help to replace lost fluids and keep you hydrated without irritating your stomach.

8. Avoid Solid Foods Until Vomiting Stops: Once the vomiting stops, you can start to reintroduce solid food to your diet gradually.

As with all home remedies, these may or may not work, and they do not replace proper medical attention. If symptoms persist, please seek medical attention immediately. Also, certain remedies might not be suitable for those with specific underlying health conditions or pregnant women, and it’s best to consult with a healthcare provider before trying new treatments.

Categorized in:


Last Update: January 12, 2024