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Evaluate Your Vomiting


Updated May 07, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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How Did the Vomiting Begin?
Evaluate Your Vomiting

Nauseated Child

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When your illness involves vomiting, it can be unpleasant and scary. You want to know what is causing it, how to stop it and what to do next.

Through the next six steps, we will look at common causes of vomiting, how to determine if you need to see a doctor and how to treat it.

First, we need to look at how you were feeling before you started vomiting.

How Did the Vomiting Start?

  • Were you feeling fine and then suddenly started vomiting?

    If you had no signs of being sick before you started vomiting, this could be a sign of a potentially serious problem.

  • Were you nauseated or experiencing diarrhea prior to vomiting?

    These are reassuring signs that your vomiting is most likely due to a stomach bug. It could be a virus such as gastroenteritis or a bacteria such as E. coli or salmonella.

  • Did you have a severe headache without other symptoms of a stomach bug?

    Vomiting that occurs with a severe headache can be a sign of some very serious illnesses such as meningitis. If you are experiencing a severe headache and vomiting, seek medical attention right away. If you have had diarrhea and vomiting and then develop a bad headache, it could be due to dehydration. If you believe this may be the cause of your headache, contact your health care provider to determine if you need treatment.

  • Are you experiencing severe abdominal pain?

    Vomiting that occurs with abdominal pain (not just nausea) may be a sign of appendicitis. Contact your health care provider.

  • Have you had a head injury in the past 24 hours?

    If you or your child has had a head injury in the past 24 hours and has started vomiting, seek medical attention. This could be a sign of a concussion or increased pressure on the brain.

  • Are you traveling/moving?

    Many people experience nausea and vomiting when they get motion sick. Motion sickness is very common when traveling in cars, airplanes and watercraft.

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