It’s certainly not a subject we like to discuss, but vomiting is a common occurrence and needs to be understood.
Unfortunately, it can be the symptom of more severe health problems (emotional and physical), as well as lead to negative consequences if you or a loved one has a bad bout and loses too much fluid.
Read on for the lowdown on vomiting so you can work to care for yourself and your family members today and into the future.
What is Vomiting?
We’ve all experienced it at some time or another but have probably never really thought much about what vomiting actually is. When you throw up, your stomach muscles contract and they push the contents of your stomach out through the mouth.
Nausea is usually present beforehand, but not always. The body vomits when it senses a threat. There are many different factors that can cause you to vomit.
Most of the time, people vomit because of common causes. For example, there can be too many toxins, poisons, or chemicals in the blood (e.g. alcohol); a migraine or head injury can trigger it; or swaying motions, from riding in a vehicle, boat, or ride at a theme park can lead to motion sickness.
When this happens, there’s a conflict within the balance-system senses in the body. Similarly, if you get a bacterial infection in your ear, this can also lead to an imbalance of the system-senses.
You might also get an upset stomach because of something you’ve eaten. You may have a food intolerance, or even food poisoning, whereby a bacterial infection has been transmitted via spoiled or rotten food.
What’s known as the ‘stomach flu,’ or gastroenteritis leads many people to vomit too. It’s not actually a flu virus, but rather comes about because of noroviruses. These can be spread from an infected person, or by eating undercooked or raw shellfish, fruits or vegetables.
Of course, many women vomit when they’re pregnant. This is a common symptom of pregnancy when the body is going through many changes, particularly hormonal ones. Acid reflux is another one of the common causes of vomiting.
When the lower esophageal sphincter isn’t functioning properly, this allows stomach acid to travel upwards, and vomiting can be a result. Ulcers and gallstones can also cause vomiting.
Sometimes when people are taking certain medications, or undergoing medical treatments, like chemotherapy, the drugs can have an impact on the body and vomiting may ensue. Some people also throw up when their stress levels peak.
This happens in both children (it may be excitement, not just stress) and adults, where intense emotions upset the system.
Besides these common, everyday reasons for vomiting, there are also less usual ones. For example, people may have an eating disorder; inflammatory bowel disease; a blockage of the bowel; a brain tumor; gynecological problems; delayed stomach emptying; pancreatitis, or other types of abdomen inflammation; or Reye syndrome.
When to Seek Treatment
While vomiting usually has a fairly benign cause, sometimes there are reasons to seek treatment, at your local doctor’s office or a hospital. For example, if vomiting doesn’t ease up within 24 hours, and/or if you become dehydrated, get some help.
For children under six years of age, parents should seek treatment if vomiting lasts more than a few hours, and/or if they also have diarrhea; a fever above 100 degrees; or haven’t urinated for more than four to six hours.
There are also times when you should see a healthcare practitioner immediately. If you are vomiting and have any of the following symptoms (and these are just some signs to be aware of), don’t delay:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Rapid breathing or pulse
- A fever of over 101 degrees
- Severe headache or a stiff neck
- Confusion or less alertness
- Blood in vomit
How Sufferers Can Feel Better
When you’re ill like this, take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest; taking a break from food, particularly solid substances; and staying hydrated.
Drink small sips of water, broth, herbal tea, and other easy-on-the-stomach beverages, or suck on ice chips or natural frozen fruit pops. Stay clear of dairy products.
As you start to feel better, slowly reintroducing solid foods, particularly blander things like unbuttered toast, dry crackers, bananas, or dry cereal.
Don’t eat too much at once, either. Also stay away from strong odors, as these can upset your stomach more. Tobacco and alcohol are also irritants to avoid.
You may need to stop taking oral medicines for a time because these can make vomiting worse. Alternatively, speak to your healthcare provider about taking a different medicine.
If you’re vomiting because of motion sickness, pregnancy, or an ear infection, your doctor may prescribe you with specific medications which can help counteract the effects of these conditions.
If stress is the issue, find ways to calm yourself. For example, deep breathing, meditation, visualization, and taking a bath can help.