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5 Common Causes of Vomiting

Common Causes of Vomiting

Vomiting is a horrible experience that most people have had at some point, whether it’s a sickness bug or too much booze at Christmas. While vomiting can sometimes be a sign of a serious medical issue, it is often caused by minor illnesses that will pass in a day or two. Here are five of the most common causes of vomiting to be aware of.


Gastroenteritis, sometimes referred to as ‘stomach flu’, is the usual cause of vomiting in both children and adults. It is an infection of the intestines usually caused by viruses, such as norovirus and rotavirus. The main symptoms are diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and fever. Gastroenteritis is very contagious and can spread easily through contact with infected people or contaminated surfaces. The illness usually clears up in a few days with rest and hydration but in very young children and older people, it can be more serious.

Food Poisoning

Consuming contaminated, spoiled or undercooked food can result in food poisoning. Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal cramps usually start within a few hours of ingesting the infected food. Foods commonly implicated in food poisoning include undercooked meat, eggs, fish, and shellfish. Food poisoning can be caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or allergens. While uncomfortable, most cases resolve without treatment within 24-48 hours.


Migraine headaches afflict around 10 million people in the UK. Nausea and vomiting can accompany severe head pain in some migraine attacks. Migraines are thought to involve abnormal electrical activity and nerve pathways in the brain. Triggers for migraines include stress, hormonal changes, foods, medications, and environmental factors like bright lights or loud noises. Staying hydrated and resting in a dark quiet room can help relieve migraine vomiting.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness is a problem for some people, often children when traveling by car, boat, plane, or on amusement park rides. It is caused when signals sent to the brain don’t match the motion felt by the inner ear. Symptoms tend to resolve quickly once the motion stops. Taking motion sickness medication like promethazine before traveling can help prevent vomiting. Ginger and peppermint may also ease motion sickness naturally.

Morning Sickness

Nausea and vomiting upon waking is often the first signs of pregnancy. It is caused by hormonal changes and is most common during the first trimester of pregnancy. Eating small frequent meals, sticking to bland foods, and taking prenatal vitamins can help minimize morning sickness. While uncomfortable, morning sickness is not usually harmful to the mother or baby. Speak to your midwife if vomiting is severe, however.

While vomiting is unpleasant, for some people it can turn into a phobia called emetophobia, triggering an emetophobia panic attack. Sufferers can get therapy for emetophobia, so speak to your GP about treatment for fear of vomiting. In most cases, vomiting will resolve on its own with rest and hydration. See your GP if you experience persistent or projectile vomiting, blood in vomit, vomiting with fever, or vomiting along with confusion or severe pain. Vomiting in babies and young children is also potentially serious. Staying hydrated, trying simple home remedies, and identifying potential triggers can help manage occasional bouts of vomiting.


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