Although vomiting is no fun, it does have a purpose. It’s your body’s way of getting rid of something harmful in the digestive system. But vomiting is not a condition on its own; it’s usually a symptom of another, underlying condition.
Vomiting may be a one-time event, last a few days, or sometimes be recurrent. And depending on the cause, there may be other associated symptoms such as nausea, fever, diarrhea, neck stiffness, etc. In most cases, vomiting is resolved when the underlying cause is treated.
There is no “quick fix” to recover from vomiting; however, there are several ways you can reduce discomfort and recover faster. One of the most important things is to treat and prevent dehydration, which is a common consequence of vomiting, and can be particularly dangerous in children.
What causes vomiting?
Some common causes of vomiting in babies and children include:
- Air ingestion
- Drinking milk too quickly
- Food allergies
- Viral or bacterial infection
- Lactose intolerance
- Gastritis due to iron supplements or fever medicine (ibuprofen)
- Other infections including urinary tract infections (UTIs), middle ear infections, pneumonia, or meningitis
- Accidental ingestion of poison
- Congenital pyloric stenosis (a condition present at birth)
- Intussusception (one part of the intestine slides inside an adjacent part resulting in a blockage, which is a medical emergency)
- Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) (individuals with diabetes mellitus, or insulin dependence, may have DKA that presents with severe vomiting in young children or young adults)
Some common causes of vomiting in adults include:
- Food poisoning
- Bacterial or viral infections (stomach bug or stomach flu)
- Acid reflux disease
- Gallbladder infection/gallbladder stones
- Motion sickness
- Inner ear disorders
- Medications (antibiotics, painkillers, chemotherapy, anesthesia)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Recreational drugs
- Severe pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Head injury
- Infection or inflammation of the brain tissue
- Brain tumors
- Increased intracranial pressure
- Bowel obstruction
- Esophageal disorders
- Lactose intolerance
- Exposure to toxins, succumb as lead toxicity
- Vomiting during pregnancy
- Noxious sight or smells
How to recover from vomiting
In many cases, simple home remedies can help you recover from vomiting within a few days. If your symptoms don’t get better even after a few days, you should seek medical attention.
- Get adequate rest.
- Drink plenty of clear liquids such as water, broths, soups, and juices.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Avoid dairy, fatty foods,high-fiber foods, and highly flavored foods because they are difficult to digest and may worsen vomiting and diarrhea. Simple foods such as crackers, toast, eggs, rice, or chicken are easier on the stomach.
- Eat probiotics, which boost good bacteria levels in the intestine and help restore gut health. Probiotics can be found in certain brands of yogurt and are available as supplements.
- Take OTC anti-vomiting medications, or antiemetics in consultation with your doctor. When you’re vomiting, your body is trying to eliminate toxins and harmful bacteria. Anti-vomiting medications may stop the vomiting, but in turn cause a buildup of toxins and harmful bacteria in the body. The same applies to antidiarrheal medications.
- Take OTC medications such as acetaminophen if vomiting is accompanied by fever, discomfort, and pain if present.
- Discontinue medications that are causing vomiting, after consulting your doctor. Your doctor may advise alternatives or adjust the dosages.
If your symptoms do not resolve, your doctor may try to rule out other causes and try to treat the underlying cause. Your doctor may also recommend the following:
- Antibiotics: These can only help treat vomiting that is caused by bacteria or parasites. Some antibiotics can cause increased vomiting due to gastritis. Always take antibiotics under a doctor’s supervision.
- Fluid replacement: First, your doctor may advise you to replace lost fluids and salts by drinking an oral rehydration solution containing salt, electrolytes, and vitamins. If you are unable to hold down liquids and your symptoms don’t improve, your doctor may recommend intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration.
- Antiemetic or anti-vomiting medications: Your doctor may prescribe antiemetics if needed.
Is vomiting dangerous?
Vomiting may not always be a sign of something serious. However, you should seek immediate medical attention if the following symptoms are present as well, as they may indicate a life-threatening condition:
What are signs and symptoms of dehydration?
It is important to identify the signs of dehydration so you can take appropriate measures before it gets worse. Dehydration can be especially serious in babies and children.
Of course, thirst is always a reliable indicator of dehydration. However, many people don’t feel thirsty until they’re already dehydrated. So the best way to prevent dehydration is to increase fluid intake as soon as you can.
Signs and symptoms in infants and children are as follows:
- Dry mouth and tongue
- No tears when crying
- Decreased urination or dry diapers
- Sunken eyes and cheeks
- Excessive crying
- Skin retracts back slowly when pinched
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