Nausea and vomiting in adults
Nausea (feeling sick) and vomiting (being sick) in adults isn't usually a sign of anything serious. In most cases, you won't need any specific treatment and can take care of yourself at home until you feel better.
One of the most common causes of vomiting in adults is a gut infection (gastroenteritis), which usually only lasts one or two days.
Vomiting can occasionally be a sign of a more serious problem and may require emergency help.
See section below on more of the most common causes of nausea and vomiting in adults.
When to get medical advice
Try to avoid going to your GP because if your vomiting is caused by an infection it can spread to others very easily.
You should also get medical advice if:
- you've been vomiting repeatedly for more than 48 hours and it's not improving
- you're unable to keep down any fluids
- you have signs of severe dehydration – such as dizziness and passing little or no urine
- your vomit is green or greenish yellow (this could mean you're bringing up bile, which is usually because your stomach is empty with nothing else left to vomit, however, sometimes it can suggest that you may have a blockage in your bowel, and need to get checked to make sure that you do not have a blockage)
- you've lost a lot of weight since you became ill
- you experience episodes of vomiting regularly
When to get emergency help
Call 999 for an ambulance, or go to your nearest emergency department if you also have:
- sudden, severe tummy (abdominal) pain – this may be a sign of a surgical condition requiring urgent assessment
- severe chest pain
- blood in your vomit or what looks like coffee granules
- a stiff neck and high temperature (fever) and a blotchy rash that doesn't fade when a glass is rolled over it (this won't always develop)
- a sudden, severe headache that's unlike any headache you've had before
- diabetes and have been vomiting persistently – particularly if you need to take insulin
You should also get emergency help if you think you've swallowed something poisonous.
Looking after yourself at home
The most important thing you can do is to keep taking small sips of water so you don't become dehydrated.
A sweet drink such as fruit juice can be useful for replacing lost sugar, although you should avoid sweet drinks if they make you feel sick. Salty snacks, such as crisps, can help replace lost salt.
You may also find ginger helps to relieve your nausea and vomiting.
Common causes of vomiting in adults
The most common causes of nausea and vomiting in adults include:
- gastroenteritis – this is most likely to be the cause if you also have diarrhoea; read about treating gastroenteritis
- pregnancy – pregnant women often have nausea and vomiting during the early stages of pregnancy; read about morning sickness, including things you can do to help reduce your symptoms
- migraines – intense, throbbing headaches that last for a few hours to days at a time, read about treating migraines
- labyrinthitis – which also causes dizziness and a feeling of spinning (vertigo)
- motion sickness – nausea and vomiting associated with travelling
Vomiting in adults can also be caused by a number of other things, including:
- certain medicines, such as antibiotics and opioid painkillers
- drinking too much alcohol
- kidney infections and kidney stones
- a blockage in your bowel, which may be caused by a hernia or gallstones
- chemotherapy and radiotherapy
- an inflamed gallbladder (acute cholecystitis)
More useful links
The information on this page has been adapted from original content from the NHS website.
For further information see terms and conditions.