Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea is described as the urge to vomit, while vomiting is the forced expulsion of the stomach's content. Both are symptoms associated with special circumstances or specific medical conditions, and they are very common; most of us have experienced them from time to time.

Causes

Nausea and vomiting usually have an easily identifiable cause. Some drugs and cancer treatment can induce them and they can be induced by motion sickness, from riding in a car, boat, plane, or amusement ride. Vomiting is also associated with gastro-enteritis and migraines. And nausea and vomiting are often early signs of pregnancy.

Nausea and vomiting can also be signs of more severe medical conditions. Anyone with prolonged nausea with no apparent cause should seek medical advice.

In young children, secretions in the throat or a cough can induce vomiting. In babies, vomiting should be distinguished from regurgitations. When in doubt, seek medical advice since chronic vomiting can rapidly cause dehydration and malnutrition in babies.

Mechanisms

The body sometimes uses nausea and vomiting as defense mechanisms to get rid of undesirable substances. Vomiting can be induced in a number of ways. For example, in motion sickness, the movement, detected by the inner ear, triggers the urge to vomit. In gastro-enteritis, microorganisms irritate the stomach, causing a person to vomit. While in pregnancy, elevated blood hormone (called HCG) levels cause nausea and sometimes vomiting, most commonly in the morning during the first three months.

Other triggers include introducing a finger or other object at the back of the throat and certain unpleasant tastes, smells, and sights-even the sight of someone else vomiting.

Treatment

Nausea and vomiting can be signs of an underlying medical problem. If you experience severe nausea or vomiting that lasts for more than a few days and has no apparent cause, seek medical advice.

There are now very effective drugs to prevent or treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and there are drugs known to be safe and effective if the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy are severe and unbearable.

If you suffer from motion sickness, ask your pharmacist to recommend the best product for you to be taken before leaving. Your pharmacist can also give you some helpful hints to reduce motion sickness en route.

Supportive therapy, may be sufficient when nausea and vomiting are mild to moderate and likely caused by gastro-enteritis. Your pharmacist may recommend you stop eating solid foods for 24 hours and can explain what to eat when you resume eating.

Seek medical advice if your child has gastro-enteritis and symptoms last for more than 2 days.

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