Vomiting is an unpleasant symptom that most people have probably experienced in their lives. But as with most gastrointestinal issues like constipation or bloated stomach symptoms, it often signals fleeting issues in one’s digestion – like indigestion, reflux, or eating something ‘wrong’. Most vomiting symptoms go away within a day. However, in rarer cases, vomiting can also be a sign of more serious health problems.
Vomiting can point to many different kinds of health issues. These are not just limited to gastrointestinal problems, but also conditions that affect the brain, central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and so on. Often, the other symptoms that vomiting occurs with can be a helpful indication of the underlying health issue. Here are some symptoms that commonly occur with vomiting, and what they could mean:
- Vomiting with abdominal pain
Food poisoning often leads to vomiting with abdominal pain, cramping, nausea, and diarrhoea. However, this is usually easily traced back to food. In cases where certain foods are not the issue, these symptoms can signal an underlying problem in the gastrointestinal tract. This could be due to chronic illnesses like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or signal an emergency condition like intestinal blockage. If the onset of vomiting is sudden, with sharp, escalating abdominal pain, it could also point to a case of appendicitis.
- Vomiting with headache
Feeling nauseated, vomiting, and suffering painful migraines sometimes come together. In these cases, it is usually the pain from the headache that triggers the nausea and vomiting. Migraine may also be accompanied by sensitivity to light, noise and odours. Some people find relief that their migraine is relieved after vomiting. It is also possible for these symptoms to be linked to emotional stress, like anxiety.
- Vomiting with fever
Common problems like food poisoning and stomach flu (gastroenteritis) may be accompanied by fever. A huge cause of concern would be if vomiting occurs with sudden high fever, a stiff neck and severe headache. These are signs of meningitis – inflammation of membranes in the brain and spinal cord. It is an extremely serious, but relatively rare condition that can be caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infection.
- Vomiting with blood
Vomit with blood is often a worrying sign. If the blood appears as red streaks, it may indicate the presence of a tear in the oesophagus or stomach lining. In some cases, vomit with blood takes on a coffee grounds appearance, which happens when stomach acids and blood congeal. Peptic ulcers, gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach cancer, or liver cancer, may all result in this kind of vomiting.
When does vomiting become a cause for concern?
When vomiting comes and goes within a day, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, certain combination of symptoms can be signs that the problem is more serious, and requires a thorough examination by the doctor. Here are some signs you shouldn’t ignore vomiting:
- Repeated vomiting beyond 1 or 2 days
- Moderate to severe dehydration
- Vomit with blood
- Significant loss of weight since onset of vomiting
- On and off vomiting that occurs for over a month
- Vomiting accompanied by severe pain
On top of these symptoms, you should be getting emergency medical attention if you experience vomiting with any of these signs:
- Chest pain
- Sudden, severe headache
- Sudden, severe stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Blurred vision
- Stiff neck and high fever
Knowing how to identify your health symptoms is an important step in getting timely and appropriate care. Don’t wait until it is too late to visit your health practitioner or the ER.