Vomiting (Adult)

Vomiting is a common symptom that may be due to different causes. These include gastroenteritis ("stomach flu"), food poisoning and gastritis. There are other more serious causes of vomiting which may be hard to diagnose early in the illness. Therefore, it is important to watch for the warning signs listed below.

The main danger from repeated vomiting is dehydration. This is due to excess loss of water and minerals from the body. When this occurs, your body fluids must be replaced.

Home care

  • If symptoms are severe, rest at home for the next 24 hours.

  • Because your symptoms may be from an infection, wash your hands often and well. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based sanitizer to keep from spreading the infection to others.

  • Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. Humming the happy birthday song twice while you wash is an easy way to make sure you've washed for 20 seconds.

  • Wash your hands after using the toilet, before and after preparing food, before eating food, after changing a diaper, cleaning a wound, caring for a sick person, and blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. You should also wash your hands after caring for someone who is sick, touching pet food, or treats, and touching an animal, or animal waste.

  • You may use acetaminophen or NSAID medicines like ibuprofen or naproxen to control fever, unless another medicine was prescribed. If you have chronic liver or kidney disease or ever had a stomach ulcer or gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your doctor before using these medicines. Aspirin should never be used in anyone under 18 years of age who is ill with a fever. It may cause severe liver damage. Don't use NSAID medicines if you are already taking one for another condition (like arthritis) or are on aspirin (such as for heart disease, or after a stroke)

  • Don't use tobacco and or drink alcohol, which may worsen your symptoms.

  • If medicines for vomiting were prescribed, take as directed.

  • Once vomiting stops, then follow these guidelines:

During the first 12 to 24 hours follow the diet below:

  • Fruit juices. Apple, grape juice, clear fruit drinks, and electrolyte replacement drinks.

  • Beverages. Soft drinks without caffeine; mineral water (plain or flavored), decaffeinated tea and coffee.

  • Soups. Clear broth and bouillon

  • Desserts. Plain gelatin, ice pops, and fruit juice bars. As you feel better, you may add 6 to 8 ounces of yogurt per day.

During the next 24 hours you may add the following to the above:

  • Hot cereal, plain toast, bread, rolls, crackers

  • Plain noodles, rice, mashed potatoes, chicken noodle or rice soup

  • Unsweetened canned fruit such as applesauce, bananas (avoid pineapple and citrus)

  • Limit caffeine and chocolate. No spices or seasonings except salt.

During the next 24 hours:

Gradually resume a normal diet, as you feel better and your symptoms lessen.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Constant right-sided lower belly pain or increasing general belly pain

  • Continued vomiting (unable to keep liquids down) for 24 hours

  • Vomiting blood or coffee grounds

  • Swollen belly

  • Frequent diarrhea (more than 5 times a day); blood (red or black color) or mucus in diarrhea

  • Reduced urine output or extreme thirst

  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting

  • Unusually drowsy or confused

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) oral or higher, or as directed

  • Yellow color of the eyes or skin

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