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Acute Nausea and Vomiting

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jul 4, 2022.

What does acute mean?

Acute means the nausea and vomiting starts suddenly, gets worse quickly, and lasts a short time.

What are some common causes of acute nausea and vomiting?

  • Food poisoning
  • Large amounts of alcohol
  • Certain medicines, too much of any medicine, or stopping a regular medicine too quickly
  • Early stages of pregnancy
  • Infection in the stomach, intestines, or other organs
  • Trauma to the head
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Gastroparesis (a condition that prevents your stomach from emptying properly)
  • Metabolic disorders, such as uremia or adrenal insufficiency

What causes acute nausea and vomiting with other signs and symptoms?

You may have stomach pain or problems with digestion. You may be sweating, have pale skin, and more saliva than usual. These signs and symptoms may be caused by the following:

  • Problems with your heart rate, blood flow to your heart muscle, blood pressure, or stomach fluid
  • Increased pressure or bleeding in the brain
  • Swelling of the tissue covering the brain
  • Migraine or seizures
  • Inner ear disorders that cause problems with balance
  • Inflammation of the appendix, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, or other organs
  • Bacteria or a parasite in the digestive system
  • Heart attack
  • Stomach ulcers, or bowel blockage or twisting

How is the cause of acute nausea and vomiting diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you and ask about your symptoms. Tell him or her if the vomiting was before, during, or after a meal. Your provider may ask what medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines. You may need blood tests to check for infection or inflammation.

How is acute nausea and vomiting treated?

Vomiting may go away on its own. The goal of treatment is to prevent dehydration. Treatment also depends on the cause of the nausea and vomiting. Any medical condition causing your nausea and vomiting will also be treated. You may need one or more of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to calm your stomach and stop your vomiting. You may also need medicines to help empty your stomach and bowels.
  • IV fluids may be given to replace lost fluids and electrolytes. This may be needed it you cannot drink liquids.
  • A nasogastric (NG) tube may be needed if your nausea and vomiting is severe. The NG tube is put into your nose and moved down your throat until it reaches your stomach. Liquid, nutrition, or medicine may be given through an NG tube. The tube may instead be attached to suction if healthcare providers need to keep your stomach empty.

What can I do to manage acute nausea and vomiting?

  • Rest as much as you can. Too much activity can make your nausea worse.
  • Drink more liquids to prevent dehydration. Take small sips. Try drinks such as ginger ale, lemonade, water, or tea. Your provider may recommend that you drink an oral rehydration solution (ORS). ORS contains water, salts, and sugar that are needed to replace the lost body fluids.
  • Eat smaller meals, more often. Try bland foods and avoid spices or strong flavors
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol may upset or irritate your stomach.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have chest pain.
  • You have severe pain or cramping in your abdomen.
  • Your vision is blurred.
  • You are confused, have a high fever, or a stiff neck.
  • You have bright red blood coming from your rectum.
  • Your vomit smells like bowel movement.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have a severe headache or pain.
  • You are dizzy, cold, and thirsty, and your eyes and mouth are dry.
  • You are urinating very little or not at all.
  • You are dizzy or lightheaded when you stand up.
  • You see blood or material that looks like coffee grounds in your vomit.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You continue to vomit for more than 48 hours.
  • Your nausea and vomiting does not get better or go away after you use medicine.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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