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What causes vomiting?

Gastroenteritis

One of the most common causes of vomiting in adults is gastroenteritis. This is an infection of the gut usually caused by bacteria or a virus, such as a norovirus. Gastroenteritis also causes diarrhoea. Your immune system will usually fight off the infection after a few days.

Pregnancy

Pregnancy can cause vomiting. Pregnant women are especially likely to vomit in the morning. If your morning sickness is worrying you, talk to your doctor or midwife.

Migraine

In migraine vomiting usually begins at the same time as the throbbing headache and disappears once the headache eases. Your doctor will be able to prescribe medication to help relieve this.

Appendicitis

Appendicitis is a medical emergency. It can cause vomiting, you may also have severe pain in your abdomen and your appendix will need to be removed.

You should go immediately to see your doctor or to the emergency department or call an ambulance on triple zero (000).

Labyrinthitis

Labyrinthitis is an inner ear infection that also causes dizziness and a feeling of spinning.

Your doctor will be able to prescribe medication to relieve your symptoms while your immune system fights off the infection, which may take a few weeks.

More unusual causes of vomiting in adults

The following can occasionally cause vomiting in adults:

  • food poisoning (due to eating something contaminated or ‘off’)
  • drinking too much alcohol
  • travelling abroad (often due to changes in water and food)
  • an abnormally high blood sugar level (hyperglycaemia) or low blood sugar level (hypoglycaemia)
  • a blockage in your bowel
  • gallstones
  • a kidney infection
  • a kidney stone that has blocked the tube from the kidney to the bladder through which urine passes
  • certain medicines, such as antibiotics.

Not sure what to do next?

If you are still concerned about your vomiting, check your symptoms with healthdirect’s online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.

The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether it’s self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero (000).

Last reviewed: July 2015

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Medications are only part of the management of epilepsy. Self management involves taking control of the way you think and feel about epilepsy. Learn more.

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Norovirus

Norovirus is a type of virus that causes gastroenteritis, with vomiting and diarrhoea.

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Pregnancy: Nausea and Vomiting | myVMC

Pregnancy induced nausea and vomiting is an extremely common symptom, also referred to as morning sickness. It can occur at any time of the day and most often when women are tired or hungry.

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Severe vomiting during pregnancy (hyperemesis gravidarum)

Some pregnant women experience excessive nausea and vomiting. This condition is known as 'hyperemesis gravidarum' and often needs hospital treatment.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Viral Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is commonly caused by viral infections resulting in vomiting and diarrhoea. The viruses are easily spread from person to person. Thorough washing of hands with soap and running water are vital to prevent spread.

Read more on NSW Health website

Kids' Health - Topics - Gastro - a tummy bug

Gastro, or gastroenteritis (gas-tro-en-ter-eye-tus) to give it the full title, is the name we give to an illness which causes vomiting and diarrhoea (runny poo).

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Parenting and Child Health - Health Topics - Gastroenteritis

Gastroenteritis is the name for an infection in the bowel causing diarrhoea (loose, watery poo). It can affect all age groups but is more common and severe in young children.

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

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