Vomiting (Emesis)

What is vomiting?

Vomiting or emesis is a reflexive act of ejecting the contents of the stomach through the mouth. It is a symptom of different conditions (infection, stomach flu, blocked intestine from cancer spread or advanced colon cancer), and certain cancer treatments like cisplatin, radiation therapy, or surgery.

How bad is my vomiting?

Mild: This means that you have a dry mouth, a loss of appetite without changes in your eating habits. Follow the tips given in the section below to manage mild vomiting. Intervention not indicated.

Moderate: This means that you are having a significant weight loss, dehydration, or malnutrition. It may require the attention of your medical team and treatments like outpatient intravenous hydration.

Severe: You are having inadequate oral food or fluid intake and sleeplessness. Severe vomiting may be an emergency and require additional medical interventions including tube feedings, TPN, or hospitalization in some cases.

How to manage mild vomiting?
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Avoid undercooked or raw foods
  • Eat light, bland foods (saltine crackers or plain bread)
  • Avoid fried, greasy, or sweet foods
  • Eat slowly and eat smaller, more frequent meals
  • Do not mix hot and cold foods
  • Drink beverages slowly
  • Avoid activity after eating
  • Avoid brushing your teeth after eating
  • Choose foods from all the food groups as you can tolerate them to get adequate nutrition
  • Use ORS (oral rehydration solution) or liquid meal replacements to recover lost body fluids
How to manage moderate and severe vomiting?

See a doctor immediately if

  • Blood in the vomit (“coffee grounds” appearance)
  • Severe headache or stiff neck
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Decreased alertness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing or pulse
What causes vomiting?

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