Nausea and vomiting are symptoms often associated with conditions such as gastroenteritis or migraine, but they can occur without them. Although they are often harmless it is still important to pay attention to how they progress.
Vomiting is often accompanied by abdominal pain, sweating, and increased heart rate.
Definitions of nausea and vomiting in adults
Nausea is the feeling of wanting to vomit, often referred to as throwing up and gagging. Vomiting is a mechanical reflex to expel stomach contents. It is a defense mechanism of the body. Vomiting is often accompanied by abdominal pain, sweating, and increased heart rate. Diarrhea can also occur. Usually, the patient vomits his meal, food, or bile. More rarely, blood may be vomited. Nausea usually stops when the stomach is empty.
Causes of nausea and vomiting in adults
There are many causes of nausea and vomiting in adults, but they are often not very serious.
Nausea can be caused by the following, not so serious conditions:
- Gastroenteritis, especially during epidemics
- Motion sickness, for example, on the bus during travel
- Indigestion due to too much food or too much alcohol
- Pregnancy, especially nausea in early and late pregnancy
- Stale air or bad smells
- Drinking strong coffee or tea on an empty stomach
In case of repeated or chronic vomiting, it is recommended to see a doctor for a diagnosis. In this case, complications are also possible: Mallory-Weiss syndrome (rupture in the gastroesophageal junction), rupture of the esophagus (Effort rupture/Boerhaave syndrome), malnutrition, etc.
Severe Vomiting can be explained by the following conditions:
- Appendicitis or a disease of the digestive tract (for example appendicitis, intestinal obstruction, pancreatitis, gallstones, etc.)
- Narrowing (stenosis) of the digestive tract
- Psychological causes (nervousness, stress, and stage fright for example)
- Vertigo in case of inner ear problems
- Myocardial infarction
- A food allergy
- Vagal malaise with loss of consciousness
- Acute cholecystitis
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Oral intoxication/Food poisoning
- Severe pain
- Alcohol abuse
- Eating disorders (anorexia nervosa, bulimia)
- Food intolerance
Prevention of nausea and vomiting in adults
Apart from treating the cause, there are some preventive measures against nausea and vomiting. However, if you know that there are situations where you are likely to feel sick and vomit, try to avoid them.
Once the causes of nausea or vomiting are known, it is important to avoid putting yourself in the same situation again whenever possible. In cases of gastroenteritis, it is recommended that hygiene measures be stricter than usual and more frequent. In case of motion sickness, it is advisable to administer one of the drugs that reduce this risk before the trip.
Treatment of nausea and vomiting in adults
In case of vomiting, it is important to:
- Lie down
- Go for a walk to get some fresh air, if your condition allows it.
- Take deep breaths to see if it is a temporary urge, caused for example by stress. In some cases, the urge to vomit by breathing deeply and rapidly a dozen times in a row may subside or even disappear, preventing the vomiting from occurring.
- Drink enough to avoid dehydration. You can drink water, a soda, or fresh lemon water in small sips. Taking a large amount of liquid at one time can cause further vomiting.
- Do not eat immediately after vomiting.
- Avoid fatty or spicy foods, alcohol, coffee, and tobacco.
- Do not go to bed immediately after eating.
NB: Be sure to take enough fluids and minerals afterward, as vomiting causes fluid loss and in some cases dehydration. Avoid drinking large amounts of water immediately after a meal. Drinking a sweet drink (diluted fruit juice) with salty crackers can be a good remedy.
It is also important to reassure the suffering person that nausea is unpleasant and in most cases is not dangerous and that they will feel better after vomiting. Therefore, do not hesitate to suggest to them that they wash their face and brush their teeth to feel better and rid themselves of the vomit smell.
If vomiting is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, with neck stiffness and light intolerance, if the person seems confused, vomits blood, if the general condition worsens, or if they have been exposed to a fall less than 48 hours before, the doctor should be called for a check-up. In the elderly, diarrhea associated with vomiting can quickly lead to dehydration, and a doctor should also be consulted. Although nausea and vomiting are not serious, it is always inappropriate to self-medicate, except in cases of motion sickness.
What are the treatments for nausea and vomiting in adults?
Mild vomiting in adults does not require treatment. It stops spontaneously when the stomach is empty. If nausea and vomiting persist, medicines called antiemetics may be prescribed. They belong to several classes of medicines. They should not be used without the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. In addition, pregnant women should not take anti-nausea medicines without the advice of their doctor.
Dopamine antagonists are prescription drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting in gastroenteritis or viral infections.
Because of the potential for serious side effects on the heart and neurological disorders, their frequent use should be considered only in cases of acute nausea and vomiting, which can lead to serious or very unpleasant complications. Their use should be avoided in the elderly.
To avoid the risk of serious side effects, it is advisable to respect:
- The dosage, which should be kept as low as possible.
- The duration of treatment, which should be as short as possible, usually less than 1 week.
- Whatch out for contraindications and drug interactions
NB: Some of these drugs are also indicated for the prevention of vomiting as part of cancer treatment (radiation therapy or chemotherapy), but they are not intended to be used as the drug of first choice.