Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

What are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea?

  • Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are not diseases but rather symptoms caused by infection or other issues in the stomach and digestive system. 
  • Nausea is a sensation of stomach unease and discomfort. It often occurs before vomiting.
  • Vomiting is the forcible emptying of stomach contents through the mouth. 
  • Diarrhea is having frequent, loose, or watery bowel movements. Diarrhea symptoms can also include urgent bowel movements and pain or cramps in the abdomen.
  • Vomiting and diarrhea allow your body to rid itself of irritants or harmful substances, such as bacteria.  If they occur together, it could be due to gastroenteritis (or the “stomach flu”), which is an inflammation of the digestive tract.


What causes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea?

  • Motion sickness
  • Pregnancy
  • Medication side effects
  • Emotional stress
  • Pain
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Infection
  • Heart attack
  • Concussion
  • Overeating
  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Obstructed bowel
Diarrhea is often caused by bacteria, viruses or contaminated food or water; food sensitivities; or certain medications and intestinal issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).


How are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea prevented?

There are several steps to help prevent nausea from developing:
  • Eat small, frequent meals during the day instead of three large meals.
  • Eat and drink slowly.
  • Avoid hard-to-digest foods.
  • Avoid strenuous activity after eating.


If you begin feeling nauseous, you may be able to prevent vomiting by:

  • Drinking small amounts of clear, non-acidic, sweetened liquids
  • Resting in a sitting position; activity can make nausea worse and lead to vomiting


You can reduce the risk of diarrhea by:

  • Washing your hands before eating and after using the bathroom
  • Drinking bottled water, especially when travelling
  • Keeping countertops and kitchen utensils clean
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Ensuring that all consumed foods are thoroughly cooked.
  • Avoiding fatty or fried foods.


How are nausea, vomiting and diarrhea treated? 

Avoid eating solid food when you are nauseous or vomiting. Eating soft, bland food can help ease diarrhea.

Vomiting and diarrhea also cause your body to lose fluids, which can lead to dehydration. Make sure to drink clear fluids. Start slowly and gradually increase the amount that you drink. Children can drink an electrolyte rehydrating solution. Adults can drink sports drinks, caffeine-free sodas and salty broths in addition to water.

In some cases, medications such as Zofran can be prescribed to control nausea and vomiting. Contact a medical provider if you have any of the following:

  • Signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, dry lips or mouth, or a rapid pulse
  • Vomiting that lasts more than 24 hours
  • Nausea that lasts more than 3 days
  • In children, vomiting that lasts more than a few hours or vomiting and diarrhea that occur together
  • Diarrhea for more than 48 hours in adults, or 24 hours in children
  • Possibility of pregnancy
  • An injury or infection that may be causing the vomiting
  • Intense pain in the abdomen or rectum


If you experience nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, you can visit any Patient First center from 8 a.m. to 8 pm, any day of the week – no appointment is needed.