What are the seven most common causes of vomiting?
Vomiting is a reflex directed by the brain toward the intestines to reverse their peristaltic movements to force the contents of the stomach out through the mouth. It is usually a symptom of an underlying disease. Excessive vomiting may dehydrate a person and make them weak, which can turn out to be life-threatening for an individual. There are many causes of vomiting. The most common reasons include the following
- Gastroenteritis/stomach flu: This is one of the most common causes of vomiting. It is a condition in which viruses, bacteria and parasites cause inflammation in the lining of the stomach. It usually spreads by coming into contact with an infected person or with contaminated food or water.
- Food poisoning: In food poisoning, the body tries to eliminate a toxic substance by vomiting. Food poisoning occurs by consuming unhygienic food or eating dairy products that have been left out of the refrigerator for too long. It also spreads via cooking and eating utensils that haven’t been properly cleaned.
- Pregnancy/morning sickness: Vomiting is the most common symptom in pregnant women. Morning sickness usually begins during the first month of pregnancy and ends between weeks 14 and 16, but some women experience it for the entire gestation period. This type of vomiting may be caused by rapid hormonal changes taking place in the body, such as increasing estrogen levels.
- Motion sickness: Motion sickness is common and may occur when traveling by car, train, airplane and boat. This problem can happen to anyone but tends to happen more frequently to children and pregnant women. This happens when the brain receives conflicting signals from the eyes, inner ear and sensory receptors, causing irritable symptoms leading to vomiting.
- Indigestion: Indigestion is one of the most common causes of vomiting seen in all age groups. It is a feeling of burning or discomfort in the upper abdomen caused by overeating or eating high-fat foods or spicy foods rather quickly. Individuals may also complain of heartburn.
- Medications: Vomiting is usually a common side effect of many different types of medications, which include antibiotics, over-the-counter medications, antidepressants and sometimes even cancer drugs.
- Stress and anxiety: A few people develop vomiting as a symptom of excess stress or anxiety. The body produces a higher amount of stress chemicals such as adrenaline and cortisol as part of the fight-or-flight response. This triggered response may interfere with the gastrointestinal tract to cause nausea and vomiting.
Below are few more common causes of vomiting
- Infection: Vomiting is known to be the most common symptom of any type of infection in the body. It is the body’s response to flush out waste during an infection.
- Migraine: Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of migraines. Migraines are severe headaches caused by abnormal brain activity that can be triggered by numerous factors, including loud noises, bright lights, perfumes, cigarette smoke, dairy foods and foods that contain MSG.
- Alcohol poisoning: Recurrent vomiting is a known symptom when a person consumes a lethal dose of alcohol. It may sometimes lead to a fatal condition if not treated appropriately.
- Gastrointestinal diseases: Diseases such as pancreatitis, gallbladder disease and irritable bowel syndrome may cause severe vomiting that can dehydrate an individual.
What are the common ways to treat vomiting?
Treatment for vomiting varies depending on the underlying cause
- Patients may need to drink fluids with electrolytes to stay hydrated. In severe cases, patients may be admitted to a hospital for intravenous fluids.
- In case of food poisoning, patients may be advised to eat bland crackers, dry toast or white rice to soothe the stomach. Over-the-counter medications such as Pepto-Bismol or Imodium can also help with vomiting due to food poisoning and a stomach bug.
- Treatment for vomiting caused by motion sickness includes medicines classified as H1 blockers such as Dramamine. Sometimes, carbonated beverages and fresh air might also provide relief.
- Apart from these measures, patients need sufficient rest and may sometimes be required to not to eat for hours. Such patients may be placed on clear fluids or intravenous fluids.
- If the infection causes vomiting, it may go away within three to seven days and patients may be given antibiotics and electrolyte fluids.
- In case of indigestion, patients may take antacids and make a few lifestyle changes to reduce vomiting episodes.
- Practicing deep breathing exercises and calming techniques may help relieve symptoms of stress.
- Eating a healthy diet containing foods prepared with safe food handling techniques and exercising regularly may help relieve the underlying causes of vomiting.
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Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea is an uneasiness of the stomach that often precedes vomiting. Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, but they are symptoms of many conditions. There are numerous cases of nausea and vomiting. Some causes may not require medical treatment, for example, motion sickness, and other causes may require medical treatment by a doctor, for example, heart attack, lung infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia.
Some causes of nausea and vomiting may be life-threatening, for example, heart attack, abdominal obstruction, and cancers.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting depends upon the cause.
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Stomach Flu vs. Food Poisoning
The stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) and food poisoning are not the same infections. However, they do have a few similar symptoms, for example:
- Abdominal (stomach) pain and cramping.
Symptoms and signs of food poisoning show up earlier (2 hours up to a couple of days) in comparison to the stomach flu in which symptoms may take 4 hours up to 48 hours (2 days) before symptoms begin. Medical treatment for the stomach flu and food poisoning generally is not necessary. A bland diet, drinking plenty of fluids, and rest may be the only treatment necessary.
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