What causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea?

There are many causes of nausea and vomiting, including motion sickness, pregnancy, medication side effects, intense pain, emotions or anxiety, gallbladder disease, food poisoning, infections, overeating, heart attack, concussion or brain injury, brain tumors, ulcers, some forms of cancer, excessive alcohol use or ingestion of toxins, bowel obstruction, gastroparesis and appendicitis.

Diarrhea is commonly caused by bacteria, viruses or parasites in contaminated food or water. Taking certain medications, such as antibiotics, cancer drugs or magnesium, or eating food you’re sensitive to or intolerant of (such as with lactose intolerance), can also be a cause.  Conditions that affect the stomach, small intestine, or colon, such as Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) are also common causes of diarrhea.

If nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea occur together, it could be due to gastroenteritis, which is inflammation of the digestive tract. It is also known as the “stomach flu.” Fever or abdominal cramps may also be present if you have gastroenteritis.

How are nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea treated?

When you’re nauseous or vomiting, it can be helpful to avoid eating solid food. Eating soft, bland food can help with diarrhea. In some cases, medications such as Zofran can be used to control nausea and vomiting.

Vomiting and diarrhea cause your body to lose fluids, which can cause dehydration. This can be serious, so it’s important to keep hydrated. Drink plenty of clear fluids. If you’re vomiting, start out slow and gradually increase the amount that you drink. For children, a rehydrating solution like Pedialyte should be taken if diarrhea and vomiting last for 24 hours or more. In adults, sports drinks, fruit juices, caffeine-free sodas, and salty broths should be drunk in addition to water.

Other treatments may be necessary to address the underlying condition that’s causing your nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms. If you have concerns about your symptoms, visit one of our clinics for an examination to determine the causes and most appropriate treatment plan. Your visit to Physicians Urgent Care will include a comprehensive exam and medical history. Treatment may include medications administered in-clinic or by prescription, hydration by mouth or IV, and stool testing to screen for possible causes of your diarrhea.

When should I see a medical provider?

While nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are usually not harmful on their own, they can become dangerous or can be caused by a more serious health problem. Visit a medical provider if you notice any of the following:

  • Signs of dehydration such as increased thirst, dry lips or mouth, sunken eyes, a rapid pulse, or rapid breathing
  • Nausea that lasts for more than 3 days
  • Vomiting that lasts for more than 1 day
  • In children under six years, vomiting that lasts more than a few hours, vomiting and diarrhea occurring together, or lack of urination for 4-6 hours
  • In children over six years of age, lack of urination for 6 hours
  • Possibility of pregnancy
  • Presence of an injury or infection that may be causing the vomiting
  • Diarrhea for more than 48 hours in adults, or 24 hours in children
  • Intense pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • Stools that have blood or pus, or that are black and tarry
  • Fever over 101 degrees

If you or your child are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to visit a medical provider.