Vomiting is forcing the stomach contents up through the esophagus and out of the mouth. It may be involuntary or done on purpose.
There are numerous diseases and disorders that can cause vomiting. Most causes are viral infections called gastroenteritis. Bowel diseases such as intestinal obstruction, gallbladder attack, stomach ulcers, and appendicitis are more serious causes.
Medicines such as chemotherapy, codeine, morphine, and antibiotics commonly cause nausea and vomiting.
Stress-related psychological problems and bulimia nervosa are other common causes, as are pain, vertigo, surgery, severe burns, trauma, and motion sickness (getting sick on airplanes, cars, boats, and trains).
Most people have nausea before vomiting. People with gastroenteritis also have cramps in the abdomen (belly), diarrhea, chills, and low-grade fever. Main gastritis symptoms are upper abdominal pain and cramps with vomiting. Intestinal obstruction, appendicitis, and gallbladder attack usually also cause abdominal pain and fever.
The health care provider will make a diagnosis by a physical examination. In some cases blood and urine tests and x-rays may be done to look for a cause of the vomiting.
Treatment depends on the cause. The key is to replace fluids and electrolytes (special substances that control fluid balance in the body). Clear broth or special oral glucose-electrolyte solutions are used. Severe symptoms may mean hospitalization and intravenous fluids. Antibiotics may help bacterial, but not viral, infections. Antacids, over-the-counter histamine-2 (H2) blockers, and proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) such as omeprazole control mild gastritis symptoms when the cause is due to stomach inflammation. Antiemetic medicines can help nausea and vomiting of gastroenteritis.
Gallbladder attack, appendicitis, and intestinal obstruction usually need hospitalization and surgery.
People with bulimia need cognitive and behavioral therapy.
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