May also be called: Puking; Throwing Up; Emesis
Vomiting itself is rarely harmful, though it is upsetting. In most cases, vomiting goes away on its own with proper home care.
Vomiting can have many causes. Most cases are due to viral gastroenteritis, often called the "stomach flu," and can be accompanied by fever, nausea, and diarrhea.
Vomiting can be a symptom of a virus or bacteria infecting the gastrointestinal tract, like rotavirus, norovirus, salmonellosis, shigellosis, E. coli, and a number of others. The term "food poisoning" usually refers to the vomiting and diarrhea caused by bacteria that have contaminated food or drink.
In most cases of vomiting due to gastroenteritis, no food and no liquids by mouth for a short time, followed by clear liquids, will be treatment enough. Ask your doctor about suitable liquids. After 8 hours with no vomiting, slowly introduce bland and mild foods, such as toast, crackers, rice, and mashed potatoes. It's best for someone with vomiting to avoid being around others until 24 hours after all symptoms end. In some cases, vomiting can cause dehydration, which requires prompt medical treatment.
Vomiting that lasts for more than a few hours or keeps happening might be due to other, sometimes serious, causes. This requires medical evaluation to discover and treat the underlying cause.
Washing hands well and often is the best way to help prevent spreading contagious infections affecting the stomach and intestines. Everyone in your family should wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating.
All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.
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