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Health Library

A to Z Symptom: Vomiting

May also be called: Puking; Throwing Up; Emesis

More to Know

Vomiting itself is rarely harmful, though it is upsetting. In most cases, vomiting goes away on its own with proper home care.


Vomiting can have many causes. Most cases are due to viral gastroenteritis, often called the “stomach flu,” and can be accompanied by fever, nausea, and diarrhea.

Vomiting can be a symptom of a virus or bacteria infecting the gastrointestinal tract, like rotavirus, norovirus, salmonellosis, shigellosis, E. coli, and a number of others. The term “food poisoning” usually refers to the vomiting and diarrhea caused by bacteria that have contaminated food or drink.


For most people who have vomiting due to gastroenteritis, no food and no liquids by mouth for a short time, followed by clear liquids, will be treatment enough. Ask your doctor about suitable liquids. After 8 hours with no vomiting, slowly introduce bland and mild foods, such as toast, crackers, rice, and mashed potatoes.

It’s best for someone with vomiting to avoid being around others until 24 hours after all symptoms end.

In some cases, vomiting can cause dehydration, which requires prompt medical treatment.

Vomiting that lasts for more than a few hours or keeps happening might have other, more serious causes. If this happens, call your doctor. He or she can find and treat the underlying cause.

Keep in Mind

Washing hands well and often is the best way to help prevent spreading contagious infections affecting the stomach and intestines. Everyone in your family should wash their hands after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.