Nausea and vomiting in adults isn't usually a sign of anything serious and tends to only last one or two days.
Vomiting is the body’s way of ridding itself 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 an infection of the gut usually caused by bacteria or a virus, which will normally improve within a few days.
However, vomiting can occasionally be a sign of something more serious, such as appendicitis, so if you are feeling very unwell or are worried about your vomiting, trust your instincts and call your GP.
Common causes of vomiting in adults
If you have diarrhoea 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 the result of a virus picked up from someone who's ill, such as the norovirus, or food poisoning caused by bacteria found in contaminated food.
Your immune system will usually fight off the infection after a few days and the self-care measures described above can help in the meantime. Read more about treating gastroenteritis.
Pregnant women typically experience repeated episodes of nausea and vomiting, particularly during the early stages of pregnancy. This is often called "morning sickness", although it can occur throughout the day.
In most cases, morning sickness will develop at some point during the first three months of pregnancy and will pass by about weeks 16-20. Read more about morning sickness, including things you can do to help reduce your symptoms.
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.
Conventional painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen, can sometimes help control the pain and your GP can prescribe anti-sickness medicine to help prevent vomiting. Read more about treating migraines.
If your vomiting is accompanied by dizziness and a feeling of spinning (vertigo), it may be caused by an inner ear infection called labyrinthitis.
Labyrinthitis will usually improve over a few days, and your GP can prescribe medication to reduce your symptoms if necessary.
Nausea and vomiting associated with travelling could be a sign of motion sickness.
These symptoms can sometimes be improved using techniques such as fixing your eyes on the horizon or distracting yourself by listening to music, although medication to prevent and treat motion sickness is also available.
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.
Vomiting can often be relieved by either massaging very gently over the stomach area, or applying a warm compress to that area. Appropriate oils are Camomile, Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint.
If the vomiting is associated with a cold, a warming oil such as Black Pepper or Marjoram may be more effective. Camomile and Lavender are probably the best choices if sickness is related to emotional upset.
Camomile, Fennel or Peppermint herbal infusions should be sipped and the Bach Rescue Remedy will often give dramatic relief.
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