HealthyLife® Students' Self-Care Guide

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 Section I–Common Health Problems Caution

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Vomiting & Nausea

"My roommate was real sick. She was throwing up and was real embarrassed because we had a community bathroom. It was pretty gross. But I told her we all get sick."

Tala E., University of Michigan

Signs & Symptoms


Vomiting is throwing up the stomach’s contents. Dry heaves may precede or follow vomiting.


Nausea is when you feel like you’re going to vomit.


bullet Viruses in the intestines
bullet Some medications, such as certain antibiotics
bullet Eating too much or eating spoiled food
bullet Drinking too much (e.g., alcohol)
bullet Motion sickness
bullet Morning sickness in pregnant females

Medical conditions that cause vomiting include: Labyrinthitis (inflammation of an area in the ear that usually results from an upper respiratory infection); stomach ulcers; hepatitis; meningitis; and a concussion from a head injury. For example, after falling from a loft, dry heaves or vomiting could be a sign of a concussion.

{Note: Nausea and vomiting can be signs of having a date rape drug.}


Treatment for nausea and/or vomiting depends on the cause.

Questions to Ask

Besides vomiting, do you have signs of meningitis? Yes. Get Immediate Care.


After a recent case of the flu or chicken pox with sudden, repeated vomiting, are other signs of Reye’s Syndrome present? Yes. Get Immediate Care.


Do dry heaves and/or vomiting occur after a recent head injury or do you vomit true, red blood? Yes. Get Immediate Care.



With vomiting, are any signs of drug or alcohol poisoning present?

  • Confusion; lethargy; slurred speech

  • Impaired motor functioning

  • Shallow breathing

  • Clammy skin

  • Weak, but rapid pulse

  • Agitation, combativeness

  • Seizure

  • Unconsciousness

Yes. Get Immediate Care.


After repeated vomiting, do you have signs of dehydration? Yes. Get Immediate Care.


With vomiting, do you have symptoms of an acute kidney infection? Yes. Get Immediate Care.


With nausea or vomiting, do the whites of your eyes or does your skin look yellow? Yes. See Provider.


With nausea or vomiting, do you have symptoms of a bladder infection? Yes. See Provider.


Do you have stomach pain that lasts for more than 2 hours, interferes with your activities, and keeps hurting after you vomited? Yes. See Provider.


Do you induce vomiting after overeating or to lose weight? Yes. See Provider.


Are you vomiting medicine that is necessary for you to take (e.g., asthma medicines)? Yes. Call Provider.



For Vomiting:

bullet Don’t eat solid foods, drink milk or alcohol, smoke, or take aspirin.
bullet Drink clear liquids (water, sport drinks, flat cola and ginger ale, etc.). Take small sips. Drink 1 to 2 ounces at a time, but drink often. Suck on ice chips if nothing else will stay down.
bullet Gradually return to regular diet, but wait about 8 hours from the last time you vomited. Start with foods that are easy to digest, like crackers.

For Nausea Without Vomiting:

bullet Drink clear liquids. Eat small amounts of dry foods, such as soda crackers, (if tolerated).
bullet Avoid things that irritate the stomach, such as alcohol, aspirin, spicy, and fried foods.
bullet For motion sickness, use an over-the-counter antinausea medicine, such as Dramamine. Or use Sea-Bands, a wrist band product that uses acupressure on a certain point on the wrist.

February 19, 2004

©2003, 4th edition. American Institute for Preventive Medicine All rights reserved.