Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(5):1176

What causes nausea and vomiting?

Nausea and vomiting are common when you are sick. They also can be side effects of certain medicines. Some people have nausea and vomiting after surgery. Many pregnant women have nausea and vomiting in the first three months of pregnancy.

Here are some other common causes of nausea and vomiting:

  • Gastroenteritis (say: gas-tro-en-ter-eye-tiss), which is sometimes called the “stomach flu”

  • Migraine headaches

  • Motion sickness

  • Cancer treatments

  • Food poisoning

What can I do to feel better?

Dehydration can make nausea and vomiting worse. Drink small amounts of sports drinks or water often to keep from getting dehydrated. Eat foods that contain a lot of water, like soup or a gelatin dessert.

If you can eat solid food without vomiting, stick to bland foods such as crackers and noodles. Do not eat dairy foods or anything high in fat. Do not drink anything that is carbonated or has caffeine in it.

If you are pregnant, talk to your doctor about using over-the-counter treatments such as ginger tea or vitamin B6. You may need to take other medicines if your vomiting is severe.

If you are going to have surgery, tell your doctor if you had nausea after surgery in the past. This will help your doctor keep you from getting sick again.

When should I see my doctor?

Most people with nausea and vomiting can be treated safely at home. However, nausea and vomiting sometimes can be symptoms of dangerous conditions. Call your doctor if you:

  • Have stomach or chest pain

  • Have bloody vomit

  • Feel weak or dizzy

  • Are urinating less than usual

  • Are pregnant or think you might be pregnant

  • Have diabetes and take insulin

  • Have heart problems

  • Just started taking a new medicine. This includes prescription, over-the-counter, and herbal medicines.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might want to see you or might tell you to go to the hospital emergency room. Your doctor also might decide to give you medicine or I.V. (intravenous) fluids.

Always call your doctor if you are taking care of a young child or elderly person with nausea and vomiting, or if you are an elderly person with nausea and vomiting.

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