Vomiting is the physical outcome of nausea. In cases of food poisoning or gastroenteritis caused by bacteria which inflame the lining of the stomach and intestines, vomiting is the body’s response to the condition by ridding itself of harmful substances. A similar response may follow heavy drinking or ingestion of other toxic substances. Other gastrointestinal disorders such as peptic ulcers and appendicitis can cause vomiting.
Vomiting may also indicate serious disorders which are not associated with digestion. Following a blow to the head, vomiting may indicate swelling of the brain or bleeding within the skull. Heart attacks may present with chest pains and vomiting.
In children vomiting is also a symptom of fevers, middle ear infections, tonsillitis and meningitis. It is quite normal for young babies to vomit small quantities of milk after feeding and is of no concern unless the child appears ill or does not gain weight.
During early pregnancy vomiting is a common symptom of morning sickness. Both ginger and raspberry leaf are recommended by herbalists to relieve the nausea and vomiting associated with pregnancy.
Bulimia is an eating disorder in which the sufferer overeats, then induces vomiting to rid the body of the food which has been consumed. When bulimia is chronic this practice can result in ulceration of the oesophagus, damage to the teeth caused by stomach acids and dietary deficiencies.
Inducing vomiting is sometimes a first aid teatment for poisoning. Vomiting should not be induced in the case of corrosive, petroleum based or unknown substances which have been swallowed. When a medicinal or general substance such as detergent, mushrooms or medicine have been swallowed vomiting should be induced by giving Syrup of Ipecac to drink, following the instructions on the bottle. Salty or soapy water should not be given to induce vomiting.
Vomiting of blood requires immediate medical advice. Tiny flecks of blood in the vomitus following extensive vomiting may come from small tears in the lining of the digestive system and are not in themselves cause for alarm.
Prolonged vomiting may result in dehydration. This requires treatment by a practitioner.