Stomach pain is a top complaint for emergency room patients. Knowing when nausea and vomiting require emergency care is not always clear-cut.
Dr. Thomas Allen, a Board Certified Emergency Room Physician at Advance ER explains the most common causes of urgent and emergent nausea and vomiting include viral and bacterial causes.
Stomach Illnesses Caused by Viruses
Viral illnesses are the most common cause of nausea and vomiting. Many different types of viruses can cause this. Most viral causes of nausea and vomiting are self-limited but often times need intervention due to dehydration or discomfort.
Another emergency complication of viral illness can be bleeding from forceful vomiting. If any signs of blood in vomit seek emergent care right away. Signs of blood include red or maroon color or coffee ground appearance.
Stomach Illnesses Caused by Bacteria
Bacterial causes of nausea and vomiting are not as common as viral causes. They usually lead to similar symptoms as their viral counterparts.
Nausea and dehydration are all common. The use of antiemetic medications is also popular. Antiemetics are medications designed specifically to stop vomiting.
Bacterial infections can cause symptoms related to bacteria itself or toxin created by bacteria. Often times this latter scenario is referred to as food poisoning. Bacterial causes of nausea and vomiting have similar treatment to viral causes with the exception of antibiotic therapy which is added to care of patient.
Your care giver or doctor should be able to distinguish between viral and or bacterial infections and know when to add antibiotics to your care.
Dehydration is a Major Concern with Nausea and Vomiting
Dehydration can occur in hours if vomiting multiple times, no fluid intake, and combined with diarrhea or can take longer if able to drink some and only vomiting a little.
Dizziness is often a sign that you are becoming dehydrated and dry mouth, and weakness.
Diarrhea, when associated with nausea and vomiting, should heighten your concerns regarding dehydration and need to seek emergency care, because now you are losing fluids from both ends and can become dehydrated much faster.
Diarrhea often accompanies both viral and bacterial-induced nausea and vomiting illnesses or can present as the main symptom and with little or no nausea or vomiting.
When dehydration occurs with stomach illnesses, administering medications to stop vomiting and IV fluids if concerns about dehydration are common actions. These therapies most often make patients feel much better.
In the past before IV fluids, dehydration was one of the major causes of death in the world. Loss of body fluid from vomiting can lead to electrolyte disorders and volume loss which in addition to making you feel horrible can lead to dizziness and even fainting and worse coma and death. It’s important you seek emergency medical care if you have concern about dehydration.
Other Stomach Related Emergencies
It is important to keep in mind many less common causes of nausea and vomiting do occur and can be serious and require emergent interventions such as bowel obstruction, appendicitis, pancreatitis, infection of gallbladder, just to name a few.
It’s hard to know when your stomach pain, nausea and vomiting is a true emergency. Remember, if you have pain in abdomen, blood in your stool or vomit you should be seen by doctor immediately.
Advance ER is available in two locations for your convenience:
Advance ER – Galleria Area
Advance ER – Park Cities
Here are some related articles you may find helpful:
- The Nausea Vortex
- Hypernatremia: Understanding Dehydration & Electrolyte Imbalance
- 5 Myths about Concussions
- Beyond Thirsty: Dangers of Dehydration
- When to Start Worrying About Abdominal Pain