Nausea and Vomiting

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Many illnesses can cause stomach pain, nausea and vomiting. Some are mild and will pass by themselves, but others are serious and need medical attention.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
Begin Here

1. Is the person an infant or child?


Yes

See "Nausea and Vomiting in Infants and Children."

No

2. Do you have a fever?


No

Go to Question 9.*

Yes

3. Do you have dark urine and/or a yellow discoloration of your skin or eyes along with other cold and flu symptoms?


Yes

You may have HEPATITIS, a disease that causes liver inflammation and is most commonly caused by a virus.

See your doctor right away. Hepatitis needs to be treated to avoid liver damage.

No

4. Do you have cold and flu symptoms along with nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea?


Yes

You may have viral GASTROENTERITIS (stomach flu).

Drink plenty of fluids and get rest. Use an analgesic such as acetaminophen to reduce fever. If your symptoms get worse or you don't get any better after a few days, see your doctor.

No

5. Do you have pain in the middle or lower right side of your abdomen, and have you lost your appetite?


Yes

You may have APPENDICITIS, an inflammation of the appendix, or a BOWEL OBSTRUCTION.

EMERGENCY
See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away. An infected appendix could rupture within 24 hours if left untreated.

No

6. Do you have a headache or stiff neck, and does normal light hurt your eyes?


Yes

You may have MENINGITIS, a serious infection of the membranes around the brain.

EMERGENCY
See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away. Delay could result in serious injury or death.

No

7. Do you have pain in your right upper abdomen or do greasy foods make the pain worse?


Yes

You may have GALLSTONES or CHOLECYSTITIS, an infection of the gallbladder. This may also be due to PANCREATITIS, an inflammation of the pancreas.

See your doctor. Gallbladder symptoms often come and go. You may still need medicine or surgery to take care of the problem. If the pain is intense or your fever persists, see your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

No

8. Did your sickness occur shortly after eating food?


Yes

You may have FOOD POISONING caused by a toxin or bacteria from contaminated food. This is likely if someone else who ate the same food also became ill.

Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest. Most episodes will clear up by themselves in 6 to 12 hours. If your symptoms are severe or you don't get better, call your doctor.


*9. Do you have a burning pain in your abdomen between your breastbone and belly button?


Yes

You may have a PEPTIC ULCER or GASTRITIS caused by a bacterial infection of HELICOBACTER PYLORI.

See your doctor. Use an antacid to relieve pain and discomfort. You may need antibiotics to treat the infection.

No

10. Have you vomited blood and/or had black, tarry stools?


Yes

You may have a bleeding ULCER or another serious condition such as CANCER.

EMERGENCY
See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

No

11. Do you have a burning feeling in your lower chest, along with a sour or bitter taste in your throat and mouth especially after eating?


Yes

You may have HEARTBURN.

Use an antacid to relieve pain and discomfort. If the pain or burning continue, see your doctor.

No

12. Are you taking any medicine, herbs or vitamins?


Yes

Medicine or other supplements could be causing the problem.

See your doctor and tell him or her about any medicine or other supplements you are taking.

No

13. Have you missed a period or could you be pregnant?


Yes

You may be PREGNANT.

Use an in-home pregnancy test, and if it is positive, confirm it with your doctor.

No

14. Do you have diabetes or are you at risk of having diabetes?


Yes

You may have KETOACIDOSIS, usually caused by high blood sugar.

Monitor your blood sugar closely and check your urine for ketones if you have test strips. See your doctor if the symptoms are severe or last more than 24 hours. If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes and think you may be at risk, see your doctor.

No

15. Did you recently hit your head and now have a headache, blurred vision, numbness or tingling?


Yes

You may have a serious HEAD INJURY.

EMERGENCY
See your doctor or go to the emergency room right away.

No

For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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