Vomiting : Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

Vomiting or puking is a common problem. It means the forceful expulsion of stomach contents through your mouth. It can occur once due to some underlying problem with your stomach or trouble you frequently due to some serious issue. Puking frequently can cause loss of fluids from your body. It can trigger discomfort. One of the complications associated with recurrent puking is dehydration. It is a life-threatening condition that needs immediate attention. Want to know more about it? Then, read ahead.


About Vomiting

Vomiting refers to the natural method of getting rid of something harmful from your body. So, when you consume something big that you have trouble swallowing, your body expels it from your throat or the esophagus. You cough or puke when something gets lodged in your throat. So, it a natural technique of flushing out something bad for the body. But, it can also indicate something wrong with your digestive system. You need to maintain caution if other signs appear along with puking. It means you suffer from some serious medical issue requiring immediate medical attention.

About Vomiting

In women, puking or morning sickness indicates pregnancy. The changes in hormones in the body to accommodate a growing baby can trigger nausea or puking. Infants also puke for a while as their digestive system must get used to the mother’s milk. But, prolonged or recurrent puking indicates something serious. So, you need to see a doctor when you see the condition worsening. Without intervention, you can face the complications of dehydration. It includes putting the vital organs at risk and enhancing the chances of life-threatening complications.

Nausea, Regurgitation, And Vomiting

Many people tend to confuse nausea and vomiting since both tend to come together, but they are different. Nausea is the sensation of vomiting and it always precedes vomiting, but not all cases of nausea lead to expelling. In the same manner, vomiting doesn’t have to be accompanied by nausea.

Vomiting is also different from regurgitation. In the latter, the undigested food goes way back up and passes through the mouth or the nose. This means that the food hasn’t reached the stomach yet. Regurgitation is a common digestive process of animals.

Causes of Vomiting

Vomiting is a very common condition affecting people of all ages. But, the underlying reason differs from simple lifestyle issues like consuming too much alcohol to digestive problems. In most cases throwing up is not a cause of concern as it is not a condition. It occurs due to an underlying condition. You puke as a symptom of the condition. The common condition causing puking includes:

Digestive Problems

People suffering from digestive problems like indigestion, ulcerative colitis, stomach ulcers, and gastroenteritis have a tendency to puke. You also puke your guts out when you consume contaminated or spoiled food. It is also a common occurrence in people who suffer from food poisoning. So, puking is the way your body adapts to get rid of the toxins. Induced puking is opted by the doctor to get rid of toxic substances ingested by patients. So, people who have consumed poison or suffer from alcohol poisoning are urged to puke out all the stomach content. It is a medical treatment option performed under the strict supervision of healthcare professionals.


Vomiting is common in women who are pregnant. It is the early sign of pregnancy. It commonly occurs during the first trimester of the pregnancy. After the first three months, nausea and throwing up ease. It eventually stops in the second trimester. But, some women experience extreme morning sickness that can cause dehydration and other severe complications. The condition is referred to as hyperemesis gravidarum. So, women diagnosed with serious conditions can suffer from prolonged or persistent puking. Due to serious morning sickness that lasts all day, pregnant women experience the following:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation
  • Fainting spells

Motion Sickness

Some people feel nauseous and tend to puke when in motion. It can occur when they ride a vehicle like a car or go in a vessel like a boat. You feel motion sickness due to the conflict between the balances of your senses. Like for example, when you are in a boat, your inner ear senses the movement but your eyes fail to see the waves of the sea.

Taking Certain Medications

Certain medications have a strong dose, which can cause side effects like puking. One common medication causing the side effect is the chemotherapy drug. So, people undergoing cancer therapy can throw up due to the side effects of the medication.


Stress is a negative emotion that can make you exhausting. The physical and mental exhaustion can make you feel distressed. Stress also activates a part of the nervous system known as the parasympathetic. It is responsible for the movement regulation of the involuntary muscles in the digestive system. This action can make you puke. So, people under extreme stress due to long working hours, jet lag or performing extreme physical actions.

Cyclic Vomiting

Frequent vomiting not related to any of these causes may be a symptom of cyclic vomiting syndrome. This condition is characterized by vomiting for up to 10 days. It is usually coupled with nausea and extreme lack of energy. It mainly occurs during childhood.

Other Causes

Some people can experience puking due to headaches. Migraines or pain behind the eyes can trigger nausea or puking. You can also suffer from the issue as the after-effect of anesthesia. So, some people who undergo an invasive procedure under the influence of anesthesia tend to throw up after they gain consciousness. Infection caused by viruses or bacteria can also trigger puking.

Vomiting Emergencies

While vomiting is a common issue, sometimes it indicates something severe. So, it requires immediate medical attention. You need to see a doctor when you experience the following:

  • Throw up several times a day
  • Have signs of food poisoning
  • Suffer from headache along with stiff neck
  • Suffer from severe abdominal pain

Emergency medical assistance is necessary when you see blood in vomit. The condition is referred to as hematemesis. The symptoms associated with hematemesis include:

  • Spitting dark blood while throwing up
  • Throw up large amounts of red blood
  • Cough up a substance resembling coffee grounds

People tend to throw up blood due to the following health conditions:

  • Ruptured blood vessels
  • Stomach bleeding
  • Ulcers

Some people experience puking due to developing some form of cancer. In most cases, you see other signs like dizziness along with it. So, when you see blood in the puke, go to a doctor immediately.

Complications Of Vomiting

Do simple actions like puking cause any complications? Yes, it does. You need to see a doctor to detect the exact reason of puking your guts out. Based on the reason, you can get proper treatment. But, without intervention, you can experience the following problems:


Severe throwing up means you lose fluids from your body. It leads to dehydration. It is because when you vomit, you expel solid food as well as fluids. The condition can worsen when you fail to replace the fluid loss. Dehydration triggers other signs like:

  • Fatigue
  • Dry mouth
  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased urination
  • Confusion
  • Headache

Dehydration can cause severe results in infants and young children who experience severe puking. Since young kids have small body mass, they have less fluid to maintain the balance in the body. So, when they lose more fluids, then it results in severe dehydration. In such cases, they need to see a doctor immediately.

Tooth Decay

Tooth Decay

Teeth damage is a common complication associated with repeated puking. Your puke is toxic as it contains stomach acid. Recurrent puking can affect your teeth as these acids are corrosive. So, it wears away the enamel covering as well as protecting the teeth. Brushing your teeth too hard after puking every time can also cause problems to your teeth.


Vomiting frequently can cause acid damage to your esophagus. It is because stomach acids travel to the esophagus during forceful or excessive vomiting. It results in small tears in the esophageal lining. This problem is called MWS (Mallory-Weiss syndrome). While it is a rare condition, it causes further damage to your esophagus.



Malnutrition or lack of nutrients is another complication linked to puking. The failure to keep down solid foods can lead to your body losing significant nutrients. Malnutrition can lead to severe weakness and fatigue. So, you need to seek medical assistance as early as possible to manage any complications.

Diagnosing Causes Of Vomiting

In people, puking occurs due to simple digestive problems or some serious issues like tumors. So, there is no specific test to detect the actual cause. You need to see a doctor to rule out other conditions and find the exact cause. Here are the ways your doctor detects the problem:

Physical Assessment

The doctor checks for other signs or symptoms that appear along with throwing up. Based on the pattern of the symptoms of the adults or child suffering the recurrent throwing up, your doctor suggests other tests to find the problem conclusively.

Lab Examination

After the physical assessment, your doctor suggests lab tests to find the problem conclusively. It is also referred to on the basis of your medical history:

  • CBC can help find any infection in your body. It is ideal to check if an infection triggers vomiting.
  • Urinalysis is another lab test to detect infection by testing your urine.
  • Thyroid detection for finding hypothyroidism that triggers throwing up.

Other Tests

Other serious cases need sophisticated techniques to find the exact cause of puking. So, you need to undergo the following:

  • Imaging Tests (like CT scan, ultrasound, endoscopy) to detect any blocks in the digestive system or problems caused by other conditions)
  • Motility tests that check for the movement of food happening through your digestive system for detecting digestive disorders.

Treatment Options Available For Vomiting

The treatment for vomiting depends on the underlying cause. So, you need treatment based on what triggers the problem. Let’s see in detail how each issue is tackled.

Treatment For Gastroenteritis

If you suffer from gastroenteritis, then you suffer from the distressing symptoms like puking for one to three days. Your body takes time to heal. When you are recovering, it is important to follow the tips suggested below:

  • Take enough fluids like water or soups to ensure hydration. A clear liquid containing electrolytes will help restore the balance in your body. It also ensures you get enough nutrition.
  • Solid foods can irritate your sensitive stomach. So, you need to follow a liquid diet until you reduce the frequency of throwing up.
  • Follow a BRAT (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast) diet for an upset stomach.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine as it can worsen puking.

Managing Food Poisoning

If food poisoning causes puking and diarrhea, then you need to wait for the bacteria causing the problem to clear itself. It can take up to 48 hours to flush out bacteria. While you are recovering, you need to drink fluids to maintain the balance. You can also take OTC like antiemetics (like Kaopectate and Pepto-Bismol containing bismuth subsalicyclate) to reduce puking. These medications protect your stomach lining to help you deal with puking. Vomiting is the sign of your body getting rid of the bacteria. If puking and dehydration become serious, then you need to visit a doctor. Taking antibiotics prescribed by the doctor can help alleviate the condition.

Handling Vomiting During Pregnancy

Nausea and puking are the early signs of pregnancy. It is a normal occurrence, which eases as the pregnancy progresses. You can ease the loss of fluids by following some pointers:

  • Drink fluids to stay hydrated. Try to drink water, soups, or ginger products like a ginger ale to manage morning sickness.
  • Eat non-greasy foods. You can also eat small meals throughout the day instead of eating three full meals to manage morning sickness.
  • Try eating saltine crackers.

Some pregnant women suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, the extreme form of morning sickness. In such cases, you need to contact a gynecologist to get medication like Dramamine. The OTC H1 blocker (antihistamine) blocks the sensory receptors triggering nausea and the urge to puke. Pregnant women must also follow other tips to manage the problem.

Overcoming Cyclic Vomiting

No cure is available for the syndrome. So, parents of children suffering from frequent vomiting episodes need to take extra caution. Getting evaluated by the doctor is essential to control the signs. The doctor prescribes the following for dealing with cyclic vomiting syndrome:

  • Anti-nausea drugs
  • Drugs suppressing stomach acid
  • Pain-relieving medications
  • Anti-seizure medication
  • Antidepressants

At times, the medication used for migraines is helpful in controlling or stopping the frequent episode of puking. It is recommended for people who have frequent episodes of puking that are long-lasting or for individuals who have a family history of migraine headaches.

Manage Acid Reflux

Manage Acid Reflux

Acid reflux occurs when your LES (lower esophageal sphincter) allows the undigested food and stomach acid to travel to the esophagus. So, instead of closing shut, the esophagus has stomach acid. It can cause the sour taste in your mouth, triggering nausea and puking. You can manage the problem with some lifestyle changes. So, follow the suggestions:

  • Avoid foods that weaken your LES like citrus, spicy or fried foods.
  • Try not to overconsume soda, alcohol or caffeine
  • Quit smoking
  • Never lie down immediately after eating food
  • Elevate your head when you sleep

Deal With Stress

Stress-related nausea and puking need proper management. You need to rein the intense emotions causing such issues. So, practice stress-relieving techniques like deep breathing, meditations or other activities to drain all the negative energy from your body. When you feel stressed, drink something cold and indulge in activities that offer you happiness as well as relief.

Invasive Surgery

If any underlying medical condition like tumor or blockage in the intestine causes puking, then you need to undergo surgery to remove the problem to manage the condition.

Manage Severe Cases Of Vomiting

Irrespective of the reason for puking, severe loss of fluids can lead to dehydration. In such cases, you can suffer from complications. You need medical assistance to manage the problem. Doctors provide fluids intravenously (IV). Medication is required for people who cannot tolerate food.

Preventing Vomiting

You cannot prevent retching caused due to medical condition. Only medical treatment can help you manage the condition. But, other issues caused to certain triggers are easy to avoid with a little care and caution. With some simple yet effective changes, you can control certain triggers leading to the condition like:

Limit Alcohol Consumption

Alcohol is a toxin. So, when you drink alcoholic beverages, you can upset your stomach. It can make you retch, especially when you consume too much. Alcohol affects your stomach lining and consuming too much can lead to excess acid buildup in your stomach. It makes you feel nauseated and increases your tendency to puke. So, limit your alcohol consumption.

Avoid Overindulging In Food

When you cook something delicious, it is natural to overindulge. But, such practice can trigger puking. So, try not to overindulge in food or drink as it can cause diarrhea as well as vomiting along with the feeling of fullness. Similarly, eating spicy or hot foods can also trigging retching as it affects the stomach lining.

Manage Headaches

People who suffer from migraines or other types of headaches can feel nauseous and retch. So, you need to take steps to manage such headaches effectively.

Avoid Physical Exertion After Eating

Exercising or rigorous physical exertion after eating food can cause puking. The mechanism behind the issue is when you exercise vigorously, your stomach is deprived of oxygenated blood. Instead, the oxygen-rich blood is diverted to the lungs, heart, and striated muscles. Since your stomach is made of smooth muscles, the food in your stomach does not digest. It leads to retching.

Manage Stress

Stress triggers anxiety. It is a negative emotion causing several physical and psychological symptoms. Anxiety can cause nausea and vomiting. It makes you sick to your stomach. In most people, the feeling can lead to stomach churns, which makes them dash to the bathroom. So, you end up dry heaving or puking. Try techniques to release your stress. It will help you overcome such issues.

Get Better Sleep

Insomnia or lack of sleep can make a person uncomfortable. You develop a headache, slight tremors, develop achy muscles, suffer from high blood pressure, and psychosis. The lack of sleep makes you exhausted and it can make you feel nauseous or puke. So, get better sleep to overcome the nauseous feeling.

Adopt A Healthier Lifestyle

Good lifestyle habits can overcome retching episodes. You can make some changes that cause viral or bacterial infections resulting in puking and dehydration. By adopting healthier habits, you will reduce your chances of getting virus transmission. So, you need to practice good hygiene like washing your hands with soap and water. Use sanitizer when soap or water is not available.

Drink Small Sips

When you feel nauseous, then drink a small amount of clear liquid like water or soda. It will avoid the urge to puke. You can also sip fruit juices (except for grapefruit or orange juice due to its acidic nature).

Take Rest

When you feel an urge to puke, you need to stop any activities and take rest. You can rest in sitting position on a chair or lie down and prop your head up. Any activity can worsen your nauseous feeling.

Steps To Prevent Vomiting In Children

Children are susceptible to puking. So, parents need to take special care to avoid such issues that lead to dehydration. In children, dehydration can trigger severe complications. So, here are some preventive tips:

Avoid Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can trigger puking in children. So, you need to seat your child facing the front windshield. It is because watching fast movement out of the windows (especially side windows) can trigger puking or make it worse. If a child plays video games or reads during the car ride, it can make the motion sickness worse.

Eating And Playing Simultaneously

When a child eats and plays at the same time, it can trigger puking. So, they need to wait for some time after consuming food. Else, it can worsen nausea and the urge to retch. Let them take a break while snacking.

Monitor Snacks

When you provide snacks, make sure it is only of the necessary quantity. Overstuffing their stomach can cause nausea and a tendency to retch. Also, avoid serving sweet snacks along with soda pop.

Know The Triggers

Some children have triggers, which causes recurring retching. So, you need to learn how to manage the triggers of the child to avoid further complications.


The outlook of vomiting depends on the underlying problem causing it. When you puke frequently, see a doctor. With the doctor’s assistance, you can detect the seriousness of the problem causing nausea as well as throwing up. With proper care and medical treatment, you can deal the problem with ease. So, never underestimate the problem, especially you see other signs along with puking. Early intervention and medical assistance can help manage the problem with ease.

View Article Sources
  • https://www.medicinenet.com/vomiting/symptoms.htm
  • https://www.healthline.com/health/vomiting
  • https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/digestive-diseases-nausea-vomiting#1

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