Nausea & Vomiting

Most people think vomiting is controlled by the stomach, but a special area of your brain called the vomiting center (of course!) is really in charge of throwing up. You can tell what triggers vomiting by where the vomiting center gets its information:

Examples of Serious Conditions Causing Nausea and Vomiting
  • Concussion or other brain injury
  • Brain infection (encephalitis or meningitis)
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Appendicitis
  • Migraine
  • Brain tumors

When the vomiting center senses problems such as those above, it initiates the vomiting sequence. Without effort on your part, the windpipe closes and the abdominal wall and diaphragm muscles tighten suddenly and forcefully. The stomach itself is limp, but when squeezed forcefully by the abdominal wall, it ejects any food or fluid up the esophagus and out.

Vomiting is awful to experience, but usually harmless and stops by itself. Occasionally, it can be serious:

Vomiting is one health problem where advice for children and adults is completely different. If you're an adult with vomiting, you have a much lower risk of dehydration, and usually can tell by thirst and other symptoms when you are becoming dehydrated. Adults are also better at noticing signs in themselves that some other illness is causing the vomiting. But children dehydrate quickly (especially if they have diarrhea, too). And they often can't tell you about other symptoms they might be having. Causes of vomiting also differ based on age (see chart below).

Causes of Vomiting


Infection (viral "stomach flu") Common Common
Food poisoning or infection Common Common
Motion sickness Occasionally Common
Over-eating/over-feeding Uncommon Common
Blocked intestine Uncommon Uncommon, but in early infancy must always be considered
Other illnesses, especially those causing high fever Occasionally Common
Cough Uncommon Common

Nausea, Vomiting

Since vomiting often happens suddenly with little warning (especially in kids), it's hard to prevent. If you feel very nauseated though, here are some things that might soothe that sensation before you throw up:

Because kids have a much lower "vomiting threshold" than adults, things as simple as a ride in a car, a harsh cough, or mixing soda and chocolate can trigger vomiting. So for children, the preventive steps below are really worth the trouble:

Some simple rules apply to everyone who is experiencing vomiting, regardless of age or cause:

Non-prescription medicine for vomiting is directed at one of two problem sites: the stomach and labyrinths.

Meclizine and Cyclizine -These are antihistamines with powerful anti-nausea actions on the labyrinths. They prevent motion sickness and the vomiting associated with it. Meclizine can be used just once daily in anyone over 12 years; cylizine is shorter acting, but is safe down to age 6.

Phosphorated carbohydrate solution - This mixture of sugar syrups and phosphoric acid calms nausea and vomiting due to stomach irritation from intestinal flu, food intolerance or overeating, and even from being emotional upset. Because it’s not a drug, you may use it safely in young children and infants. Be sure to obey the limits on the package, since large doses can worsen diarrhea and vomiting.

Dehydration is the most important complication of persistent vomiting. You should be concerned if:

An oral rehydrating solution (ORS) should be started if you notice any of the above findings. Click here for instructions on [Dehydration and ORS]. More aggressive treatment may be necessary for young children, or any age with moderate to severe dehydration.

For detailed feeding advice during illnesses with vomiting, clear here for [Clear Liquid Diet].

Instant Digest - is a natural solution that may help to sooth the stomach. It gently relieves digestive inflammation and burning, and eliminates nausea and other symptoms of digestive problems.

Emetrol (phosphorylated carbohydrate syrup). This pleasant tasting and safe syrup has a soothing effect on sometimes irritated stomach lining from overeating, food intolerance, or other types of indigestion.

Bonine - This is used for motion sickness relief for airline trips or ocean cruises. It is most effective in preventing nausea and vomiting in those with inner ear (labyrinth) problems. All natural ingredients, convenient dosing.

Kaolectrolyte (carbohydrate and electrolyte powder packets). This is the product that most closely approximates World Health Organization guidelines on oral rehydrating solutions. Because they come in small, easily transportable packets and dissolve in 8 oz. of water in seconds, they are more convenient than pre-mixed brands. They also come in several flavors.

Physician evaluation is important if there is a more serious condition causing the vomiting, or if it is so persistent that home treatment can’t prevent dehydration.

These are three main reasons to see your doctor for vomiting:

Based upon the above three reasons, physician care is recommended for all the following situations:

(infants and Children under 6)
(6 years and older)
Vomiting lasting more than a few hours. Vomiting lasting one day. Vomiting for more than one day.
Vomiting and diarrhea together. Vomiting and diarrhea together for more than 24 hours. Vomiting and diarrhea together for more than 24 hours.
No urination for 6 hours No urination for 12 hours. Signs of moderate dehydration. Click here for [Dehydration and Oral Rehydrating solutions].
Signs of mild dehydration or worse. Signs of moderate dehydration.
Vomiting and fever over 100 degrees. Vomiting and fever over 102 degrees.

Regardless of age, a physician evaluation is recommended immediately for nausea and/or vomiting accompanying any of the signs or symptoms listed below:

See these related sites for further information:


More than nausea and vomiting on our Self Care Home Page



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