When is Nausea and Vomiting Harmful?


In many cases, vomiting is relatively harmless. For some individuals, however, it can be indicative of a serious problem. There are a number of serious medical concerns that can result in nausea and vomiting, including things like a concussion, appendicitis, brain tumors, brain damage, meningitis, and even intestinal blockage.

The biggest risk of nausea and vomiting is usually dehydration. This is especially a risk in younger children. Adults don’t have the same degree of risk of dehydration, largely because they can generally tell when they’re dehydrated because of thirst, and a dry mouth or lips.

Children, however, are at an increased risk of being dehydrated. If the child also has diarrhea, they’re in double trouble. Young children can’t communicate their dehydration symptoms, which means that adults need to watch out for those signs.

Some of the signs of dehydration in young children (or someone of any age) include dry mouth and lips, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, and sunken eyes. For infants, additional symptoms of dehydration might include decreased urination and a sinking of the baby’s soft spot.

Here are some reasons that you might consider nausea and vomiting harmful, and should talk to your doctor:

  • The nausea persists for more than a few days
  • You are pregnant
  • Home treatments aren’t working
  • You are showing signs of dehydration
  • There has been a head injury
  • For adults, vomiting persists for more than 24 hours, especially if it is accompanied by diarrhea
  • For infants and young children, the vomiting lasts for more than a few hours or is accompanied by diarrhea or fever more than 100 degrees
  • For children over six years old, the same as for adults and if the child has a fever over 102.

There are some signs you should get immediate medical attention, rather than just seeing your regular doctor when she’s available, such as:

  • Vomit contains blood
  • You also have a severe headache
  • You feel lethargic, confused, or not alert
  • You also have severe abdominal pain
  • You have a fever over 100 degrees
  • You also have diarrhea
  • You have rapid breathing and a rapid pulse