Nausea is the unpleasant feeling that you are going to vomit. Vomiting is the forceful ejection of the stomach contents through the mouth. Muscles in the abdominal wall contract vigorously to create the pressure necessary for vomiting (retching). Retching can also occur without vomiting, before vomiting, or on its own. Similarly, nausea can occur without vomiting, or may precede vomiting.
Most of the time, nausea and vomiting do not require urgent medical attention. However, if the symptoms continue for days, they are severe, or you cannot keep down any food or fluids, you may have a more serious condition.
Vomiting is a complex, co-ordinated reflex orchestrated by the vomiting center of the brain. It responds to signals coming from:
- The mouth, stomach, and intestines
- The bloodstream, which may contain medicines or infections
- The balancing systems in the ear (motion sickness)
- The brain itself, including unsettling sights, smells, or thoughts
A variety of stimuli can trigger vomiting, from migraines to kidney stones. Sometimes, just seeing someone else vomit will start you vomiting, in your body's effort to protect you from possible exposure to the same danger.
Signs & Symptoms:
Knowing what preceded the onset of nausea and vomiting can sometime help determine the cause:
- Sudden onset of symptoms with fevers, body aches, runny nose, cough, and diarrhea may indicate possible infection
- If symptoms began after anesthesia for surgery, or following chemotherapy, medication is a likely cause
- Early morning vomiting often occurs during pregnancy, but also may be seen in subjects with kidney failure
- Vomiting several hours after a meal may suggest blockage in the stomach or intestines
- Abdominal pain followed by vomiting may suggest inflammation in the abdomen (such as pancreatitis) or intestinal obstruction
- Explosive projectile vomiting can be associated with increased pressure inside the brain (for example meningitis or tumors)
- Vomiting immediately after a meal could indicate blockage in the stomach, but has been associated with psychiatric disorders (anorexia, bulimia)
- Chronic nausea and vomiting may be caused by hormonal disorders (diabetes, pregnancy) or functional disorders (symptoms in the absence of specific abnormalities that can be identified on testing)
- Cyclic vomiting syndrome is characterized by intense vomiting lasting a few hours or a few days with long periods without symptoms.
- Loss or weight, malnutrition, and dehydration may result from long standing nausea and vomiting, as it may be associated with reduced or poor oral intake of nutrients.
Medicines to stop nausea and vomiting are available for adults
Risks from Vomiting:
Dehydration can develop rapidly, especially in the very young and the elderly. A dehydrated person needs fluid replacement urgently
Dehydration Warning Signs:
- Vomiting and keeping nothing down
- No urine passed for 10 hours or more (2-3 hours in children)
- Skin stays up for 102 seconds when pinced
- Irritable, sleepy or 'floppy' child
- Sunken eyes or shadows under yees
- 'Soft spot' in top of baby's head sunken more than usual
- Changed breathing - either quick or slow and deep
- Cold, clammy skin
- Dry mouth, tongue, lips; no tears
- Small amounts of clear liquids, such as electrolyte solutions. Other clear liquids -- such as water, ginger ale, or fruit juices -- also work unless the vomiting is severe or it is a baby who is vomiting
- For breastfed babies, breastmilk is usually best. Formula-fed babies usually need clear liquids
- Don’t drink too much at one time. Stretching the stomach can make nausea and vomiting worse. Avoid solid foods until there has been no vomiting for six hours, and then work slowly back to a normal diet
Most vomiting comes from mild viral illnesses. Nevertheless, if you suspect the vomiting is from something serious, the person may need to be seen immediately.