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Vomiting (Nausea)

Most of the time, nausea and vomiting go away on their own as quickly as they started and can be managed at home.

Treatment for nausea and vomiting usually involves medicine to decrease the nausea and fluid replacement for dehydration.

The mainstay of home treatment is to drink fluids.  Fluid intake helps correct electrolyte imbalance, which may stop vomiting.  This means drinking fluids, which may be the farthest thing from your mind.  But it is vital to prevent yourself from becoming dehydrated from fluid loss.

  • Start with small amounts, such as 4-8 ounces at a time for adults and 1 ounce or less at a time for children.  Only use clear liquids (such as clear soup broth, juice, lemon-lime soda).  If you're not sure if it's clear, put the liquid in a clear glass bowl and try to read something through it.  If you can't read, it's not clear.
  • Avoid milk and any dairy products.  They can make your nausea and vomiting worse.
  • Work your way up to soft foods, gelatin, oatmeal, yogurt, and similar soft foods and go back to liquids if the nausea and vomiting return.

Dehydration in children: Children should be given oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte, Rehydrate, Resol, and Rice-Lyte.

  • Cola, tea, fruit juice, and sports drinks will not correctly replace fluid or electrolytes lost from vomiting.  Nor will plain water.  In addition, plain water will not replace electrolytes and may dilute electrolytes to the point of seizures.
  • In underdeveloped nations or regions without available commercial pediatric drinks, the World Health Organization has established a field recipe for fluid rehydration: Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar (or honey) with teaspoon of table salt and teaspoon of baking soda.  (Baking soda may be substituted with teaspoon of table salt.) Mix in 1 liter (1 qt) of clean or previously boiled water.

Dehydration in adults: Although adults and adolescents have a larger electrolyte reserve than children, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration may still occur as fluid is lost through vomiting.  Severe symptoms and dehydration usually develop as complications of medication use or chronic diseases such as diabetes or kidney failure.  But symptoms may occur in healthy people.

  • Initially, adults should eat ice chips and clear, non-caffeinated, non-dairy liquids such as Gatorade, ginger ale, fruit juices, and Kool-Aid or other commercial drink mixes.
  • After 24 hours of fluid diet without vomiting, begin a soft-bland solid diet such as the BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce without sugar, toast, pasta, and potatoes.

Medical Treatment

  • Fluids are given by mouth if you can keep them down, or through a vein into the bloodstream.  The IV route is a common way to give fluids back to the body in moderate to severe dehydration.
  • Treatment will also be given for the specific cause, if found.

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