Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of many different conditions. Some of the more common causes are described below.
If you have diarrhoea as well as vomiting, it is likely to be gastroenteritis (tummy bug). This is the most common cause of vomiting in adults and may be caused by:
- a virus picked up from someone who's ill, such as the norovirus
- food poisoning caused by bacteria found in contaminated food.
Your immune system will fight off the bug and you should start to feel better within 1 to 2 days. Read more about gastroenteritis.
In the early stages of pregnancy, nausea and vomiting are common. Nausea occurs in approximately 50%-90% of all pregnancies; vomiting in 25%-55%. (1) This is commonly referred to as 'morning sickness' however it can occur at any time of the day.
For most women, morning sickness begins within the first few weeks of pregnancy and stops near the end of the first trimester, around weeks 16 to 20. However, for some women, it can continue throughout the pregnancy and this is known as morning sickness.
Read more about morning sickness including what you can do to relieve symptoms.
If you experience nausea and vomiting when travelling then this could be a sign of motion sickness.
Mild symptoms of motion sickness may be relieved by techniques such as fixing your eyes on the horizon, getting fresh air and trying to distract yourself. If you experience more severe symptoms, you may wish to try medication to help prevent the symptoms, such as:
- Using hyoscine (also called scopolamine) skin patches which are applied to the skin behind the ear. It should be applied at least 5 hours before the journey. Hyoscine can cause drowsiness, so avoid using it if you're planning to drive
- Antihistamines such as cyclizine (Nausicalm), meclozine (Sea Legs) and promethazine (Phenergan or Allersoothe). These are less effective at treating motion sickness than hyoscine. They are usually taken 1 to 2 hours before your journey. They tend to cause drowsiness or sleepiness so are not recommended if you need to stay alert ie, if you are driving.
Read more about motion sickness.
If you experience vomiting along with an intense headache on one side, sensitivity to light and 'aura' (such as visual disturbances, dizziness, and pins and needles), you may be experiencing migraines.
Migraines can be painful and debilitating. See your doctor if you experience migraines. There are medications which can help prevent and treat them.
Read more about migraines.
There are many other causes of nausea and vomiting, such as:
- Medications, such as morphine and antibiotics.
- Chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- Intense pain.
- Emotional stress.
- A reaction to certain smells or odours.
- Drinking too much alcohol.
Nausea and vomiting may also be early warning signs of more serious medical problems, such as:
- Blockage of the intestines.
- Gastroparesis or slow stomach emptying (a condition that can be seen in people with diabetes).
- Gallbladder disease.
- Concussion or brain injury.
- Stomach ulcers.
- Certain cancers.
If you experience nausea and/or vomiting and are concerned about what is causing it, see your doctor for a check up.