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Acute Nausea and Vomiting


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are acute nausea and vomiting?

Acute nausea and vomiting are common symptoms that may be caused many different disorders. Acute nausea and vomiting may occur in conditions affecting the digestive system itself or in association with more generalized conditions, such as influenza, migraine headaches or meningitis. Many causes of acute nausea and vomiting are not serious; however, these symptoms can also be a sign of severe underlying conditions.

Common causes of nausea and vomiting include viral gastroenteritis and morning sickness that is associated with pregnancy. Many medications can cause acute nausea and vomiting, such as chemotherapy and general anesthetics used for surgery. Migraine headaches are also common causes for acute nausea and vomiting. Foodborne illnesses are a common cause for acute nausea and vomiting and often also result in diarrhea.

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If your symptoms are persistent and severe, or you are unable to keep down any fluids or food, these may be signs of a serious condition. Rarely, nausea and vomiting may indicate a serious or even life-threatening problem such as a heart attack.

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Left untreated, acute nausea and vomiting may lead to severe dehydration. Severe dehydration and electrolyte imbalances can result in shock or coma and may be life threatening. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have symptoms of severe dehydration such as confusion, lethargy, loss of consciousness, cold skin, or reduced urine production.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 12, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Nausea and vomiting. MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  2. Nausea and vomiting.
  3. Kahan S, Miller R, Smith EG (Eds.). In A Page Signs & Symptoms, 2d ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2009.

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