Vomiting in adults
Nausea and vomiting in adults aren’t usually a sign of anything serious. It tends to only last one or two days.
Vomiting is the body’s way of getting rid of harmful substances from the stomach, or it may be a reaction to something that has irritated the gut.
One of the most common causes of vomiting in adults is gastroenteritis. This is a virus- or bacteria-related infection of the gut. It’ll normally improve within a few days.
Vomiting can occasionally be a sign of something more serious, such as appendicitis.
If you have diarrhea as well as vomiting, it’s likely you have gastroenteritis. This is one of the most common causes of vomiting in adults.
It’s often caused by:
- A virus, like norovirus
- Food poisoning caused by bacteria in contaminated food
- Your immune system will usually fight off the infection after a few days.
Pregnant women often experience nausea and vomiting, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy. This is often called morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day.
If you have recurrent episodes of vomiting along with intense, throbbing headaches that last for a few hours to days at a time, you may be experiencing migraines.
Pain relief, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, can sometimes help control the pain. Your GP can prescribe anti-sickness medicine to help prevent vomiting.
If you also feel dizzy or like you’re spinning (vertigo), you may have an inner ear infection called labyrinthitis.
Labyrinthitis will usually improve over a few days. Your GP can prescribe medication to reduce your symptoms if needed.
Nausea and vomiting when traveling could be signs of motion sickness.
You can try:
- Looking at the horizon
- Distracting yourself by listening to music
As well as vomiting, appendicitis can cause severe pain in your abdomen (tummy). You should call 999 for an ambulance if you experience pain that suddenly becomes worse and spreads across your abdomen. These are signs that your appendix may have burst.
If you have appendicitis, you will often need surgery to remove your appendix.
Other causes of vomiting in adults
Vomiting in adults can also be caused by a number of other things, including:
- Certain medicines, such as antibiotics and opioid painkillers,
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Kidney infections and kidney stones
- A blockage in your bowel, which may be caused by a hernia or gallstones
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy
- Acute cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder)
Looking after yourself at home
Mostly, you can take care of yourself at home until you feel better.
- Keep taking small sips of water frequently so you don’t become dehydrated
- Drink a sweet drink such as fruit juice to replace lost sugar, unless it make you feel sick
- Eat salty snacks, such as crisps, which can help replace lost salt
- Try ginger (in supplements, biscuits or tea), but check with your pharmacist or GP before using ginger supplements