Nausea and vomiting are common experiences that most people encounter at some point in their lives.

Though often temporary and harmless, these symptoms can sometimes indicate an underlying medical condition that may require medical attention.

What are Nausea and Vomiting?

Nausea refers to the unpleasant sensation of wanting to vomit, whereas vomiting, also called emesis, describes the involuntary, or voluntary in some cases, process of ejecting stomach contents through the mouth.

These symptoms are prevalent in both children and adults, and can be caused by various factors.

They are particularly common in pregnant women, and individuals undergoing cancer treatments.

What Causes Nausea?

Nausea can manifest either simultaneously with vomiting or independently due to a variety of physical and psychological factors.

Common reasons for experiencing nausea include:

  • Severe pain resulting from illness or injury
  • Early stages of pregnancy
  • Travel sickness
  • Emotional distress
  • Upset stomach
  • Contaminated food
  • Infections
  • Exposure to harmful substances
  • Presence of gallstones
  • Migraine
  • Stomach flu
  • Chemotherapy
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Food poisoning

In some cases, specific odours can induce nausea. This is frequently observed during the initial phase of pregnancy but can affect non-pregnant individuals as well.

Nausea related to pregnancy generally subsides during the second or third trimester.

What Causes Vomiting?

The reasons for vomiting can vary depending on age.

In adults, common causes include:

  • Viral infections 
  • Food poisoning
  • Occasional motion sickness or illnesses accompanied by high fever

For children, vomiting often results from:

  • Viral infections
  • Food poisoning
  • Motion sickness
  • Overconsumption of food
  • Coughing
  • High fever

Blocked intestines, though rare, can also lead to vomiting, particularly in early infancy.

Vomiting and Underlying Conditions

While vomiting is usually harmless, it could indicate a more serious underlying condition.

Some examples of severe illnesses that may cause nausea or vomiting include:

  • Concussions
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Intestinal obstructions
  • Appendicitis
  • Migraine headaches
  • Brain tumors

Dehydration and Diarrhea

Dehydration is another concern associated with vomiting. Adults generally have a lower risk of dehydration, as they can often recognise symptoms like increased thirst and dry lips or mouth.

Children, however, face a higher risk, especially when vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea.

Young children might not be able to communicate their dehydration symptoms to adults properly.

You must carefully watch for these visible signs of dehydration in your child:

  • Dry lips and mouth
  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid breathing or pulse

In infants, parents should monitor for reduced urination and a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on the top of the baby’s head).

Relief and Treatment

Home Remedies

Simple remedies like ginger, peppermint and deep-breathing exercises (especially in chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting) can help alleviate nausea and vomiting for some people.

Over-the-counter Medications

Anti-nausea medications, such as Dramamine or Pepto-Bismol, can provide temporary relief for mild to moderate symptoms.

Prescription Medications

If nausea and vomiting are severe or persistent, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications to manage the symptoms.

Hydration and Nutrition

Drinking small sips of water or electrolyte-rich fluids can help prevent dehydration, while eating bland foods like crackers, toast or rice can help settle your stomach.

Treating Underlying Causes

Addressing the root cause of nausea and vomiting is crucial. Depending on the diagnosis, your doctor may recommend specific treatments to resolve the issue.

Consume Smaller Meals

Opting for smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day can help alleviate stomach discomfort and reduce the likelihood of vomiting.

Avoid Solid Foods

Refraining from eating solid foods until the vomiting stops can help your stomach recover and prevent further irritation.

Rest Well

Taking time to rest and recover is essential for your body to heal and regain strength.

Be careful with medications

Steering clear of medications that might irritate your stomach, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids, can help prevent nausea and vomiting from worsening.

Complications of Severe Vomiting

Severe or persistent vomiting can lead to several complications, such as:

  • Dehydration: Frequent vomiting can cause significant fluid loss, leading to dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth, dark-coloured urine and dizziness.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: Vomiting can result in the loss of important electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, leading to an imbalance. This can cause muscle cramps, weakness and irregular heartbeat.
  • Malnutrition: Prolonged vomiting can lead to inadequate nutrient absorption, causing malnutrition and potential weight loss.
  • Tooth enamel erosion: Repeated exposure to stomach acid during vomiting can erode tooth enamel, resulting in increased sensitivity, discolouration and an increased risk of cavities.
  • Esophageal damage: Persistent vomiting can cause inflammation and damage to the esophagus, potentially leading to conditions like esophagitis or tears in the esophageal lining (Mallory-Weiss syndrome).
  • Aspiration: Vomiting increases the risk of inhaling stomach contents into the lungs, which can lead to aspiration pneumonia, a serious lung infection.

If you find yourself dealing with persistent vomiting, it’s essential to consult your doctor who can quickly diagnose the underlying cause and recommend the right course of treatment for you.

Taking this proactive approach can help you avoid potential complications and ensure your health remains in good condition.

When to Seek a Doctor

While occasional nausea and vomiting may not warrant immediate medical attention, it’s essential to consult your doctor if you experience the following scenarios:

  • Persistent vomiting: If you’ve been vomiting for more than 24 hours or experience frequent episodes of vomiting over a short period, seek medical help at once.
  • Signs of dehydration: If you notice symptoms such as increased thirst, dry mouth, dark-coloured urine, dizziness or rapid heartbeat, contact your doctor immediately.
  • Severe abdominal pain: Intense abdominal pain accompanying nausea and vomiting could indicate a more serious underlying condition.
  • Vomiting blood: This is a potentially serious symptom that requires immediate medical attention.
  • High fever: If you have a high fever along with nausea and vomiting, it’s important to consult your doctor.
  • Weight loss: Unintentional weight loss due to persistent vomiting might indicate an underlying health issue that needs medical evaluation.

Remember, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and reach out to your doctor if you’re concerned about your symptoms.

Early intervention can prevent complications and ensure proper treatment.


In conclusion, nausea and vomiting are common symptoms that can be caused by various factors.

Effectively managing these symptoms involves identifying the underlying cause, recognising the warning signs and implementing suitable treatment methods.

Persons experiencing persistent vomiting should seek professional medical advice to ensure a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

A proactive approach to your health can help you prevent potential complications and maintain a stable and healthy life.

It is important to address these issues early on and maintain open communication with your doctor for optimal outcomes.


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Sources: Cleveland Clinic, WebMD, Mayo Clinic, Healthline, Medline Plus, Medical News Today, NCBI, PubMed, Penn Medicine.