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by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Nausea and Vomiting—Adult

Definition

Nausea is an uneasy feeling in the stomach that may make a person want to vomit. Vomiting is throwing up stomach contents through the mouth.

Causes

Many illnesses can cause nausea and vomiting, such as:
Serious problems that can cause nausea and vomiting are:
Other causes may be:

Risk Factors

The risk of this problem is higher in people who have a condition or disease that can cause nausea and vomiting.

Symptoms

Some people may have other symptoms in addition to nausea and vomiting, such as:
  • Feeling very tired
  • Vomiting blood
  • Vomit that looks like coffee grounds
  • Severe headache
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Stiff neck
  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Severe belly pain
  • Confusion
  • Lack of alertness
  • Chest pain

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your nausea and vomiting. You will also be asked about your health history. A physical exam will be done.
Blood tests will be done. Some people may be given a pregnancy test.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
Abdominal Ultrasound
Nucleus factsheet image
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.

Treatment

Any underlying causes will need to be treated. Most people are able to manage nausea and vomiting on their own. Some things that may help are:

Ways to Control Nausea

  • Drink clear liquids like water, juice, or broth.
  • Eat light foods that do not cause stomach upset.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Eat smaller meals.
  • Eat more often.
  • Rest after eating.
  • Eat foods from all the food groups. This will ensure proper nutrition.

Ways to Control Vomiting

  • Rest as needed.
  • Slowly drink larger amounts of clear liquids like water, juice, or broth.
  • Do not eat solid foods until vomiting has passed.
  • Do not stop taking medicine unless advised to do so.
Vomiting may cause dehydration. An oral rehydrating solution (ORS) can help.
There may be times when symptoms will need to be treated by a doctor. Medicine may be given to ease symptoms.

Prevention

The risk of this problem may be lowered by:
  • Eat small meals throughout the day.
  • Eat slowly.
  • Rest after eating.
  • Drink liquids between meals, instead of during meals.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene before eating, after using the bathroom, and after contact with people who are sick.
  • Handle food properly .

RESOURCES

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://familydoctor.org
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders
https://www.niddk.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Association of Gastroenterology
https://www.cag-acg.org
Canadian Digestive Health Foundation
http://www.cdhf.ca

References

Nausea and vomiting. American College of Gastroenterology website. Available at: https://gi.org/topics/nausea-and-vomiting. Accessed August 20, 2021.
Nausea and vomiting. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/symptom/nausea-and-vomiting. Accessed August 20, 2021.
Nausea and vomiting in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/nausea-and-vomiting-in-adults. Accessed August 20, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 08/20/2021