Antiemetics for Nausea and Vomiting
John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP
John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
What can cause nausea and vomiting?
Nausea and vomiting occur for many reasons. Common causes include motion sickness, self-limited illnesses (viruses or food poisoning) that last a few hours to a few days, and toxins (such as certain medications).
People should consult a doctor if nausea and/or vomiting are persistent or are accompanied by other severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, fever, yellow discoloration of the skin (jaundice), or bleeding. Individuals with severe or ongoing vomiting who have other serious medical problems, are elderly, are very young, or are pregnant or nursing infants should also seek medical attention.
Motion sickness may occur in many settings including travel by car, air, or boat. This may be the best setting for the use of over-the-counter medications for nausea and vomiting. Other inner-ear problems that are related to motion sickness can create a feeling of nausea as well.
Viral infections can cause nausea and vomiting, which is sometimes associated with diarrhea. Often, an "outbreak" can be identified with several cases occurring in the same household. Food poisoning from either bacteria or viruses can cause similar symptoms. In both situations, the illnesses generally run their course over a period of several days and resolve without treatment.
Medications can cause nausea or vomiting and should be suspected when the symptoms appear within a short time after starting a new medication. Notify your prescribing physician if this happens.
Nausea and vomiting are not diseases but symptoms that can be caused by many conditions. Several other less common reasons for nausea and vomiting are
- early stages of pregnancy (nausea occurs in approximately 50%-90% of all pregnancies, vomiting in 25%-55%),
- painful injury,
- postoperative (the period following surgery),
- an emotional or fearful situation,
- gallbladder disease, gallstones or infection (cholecystitis),
- overeating (especially after gastric bypass surgery),
- a reaction to certain smells or odors,
- heart attack (may be the only symptom in some people),
- concussion or head injury,
- brain tumor,
- ulcers or gastritis,
- bulimia or other psychological illnesses, and
- gastroparesis (slow stomach emptying often seen in people with diabetes).
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