Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written in everyday language.

Nausea and Vomiting in Adults

By Norton J. Greenberger, MD

(For nausea and vomiting in infants and children, see Vomiting in Infants and Children.)

Nausea is an unpleasant feeling of needing to vomit. People also may feel dizziness, vague discomfort in the abdomen, and an unwillingness to eat.

Vomiting is a forceful contraction of the stomach that propels its contents up the esophagus and out the mouth. Vomiting empties the stomach and often makes people with nausea feel considerably better, at least temporarily. Vomiting is quite uncomfortable and can be violent. Severe vomiting can project stomach contents many feet (projectile vomiting). Vomiting is not the same as regurgitation, which is the spitting up of stomach contents without forceful abdominal contractions or nausea. For instance, people with achalasia or Zenker diverticulum (see Zenker diverticula) may regurgitate undigested food without nausea.

Vomitus—the material that is vomited up—usually reflects what was recently eaten. Sometimes it contains chunks of food. When blood is vomited, the vomitus is usually red (hematemesis—see Gastrointestinal Bleeding), but if the blood has been partly digested, the vomitus looks like coffee grounds. When bile is present, the vomitus is bitter and yellow-green.

Resources In This Article

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

  • Generic Name
    Select Brand Names
  • DURAMORPH PF, MS CONTIN
  • No US brand name
  • TYLENOL
  • COMPRO
  • SANCUSO
  • ANZEMET
  • TRANSDERM SCOP
  • REGLAN
  • EMEND
  • ZOFRAN