Emesis; Vomiting; Stomach upset; Upset stomach
Nausea is the sensation of having an urge to vomit. Vomiting is forcing the contents of the stomach up through the esophagus and out of the mouth.
Your body has a few main ways to respond to an ever-changing, wide variety of invaders and irritants. Sneezing ejects the intruders from the nose, coughing from the lungs and throat, diarrhea from the intestines, and vomiting from the stomach.
Vomiting is a forceful action accomplished by a fierce, downward contraction of the diaphragm muscle. At the same time, the abdominal muscles tighten against a relaxed stomach with an open gastroesophageal sphincter. The contents of the stomach are propelled up and out.
As part of a bodily reflex, you may produce more saliva just before vomiting.
Vomiting is a complex, coordinated reflex orchestrated by the vomiting center of the brain. It responds to signals coming from:
An amazing variety of stimuli can trigger vomiting, from migraines to kidney stones. Sometimes, just seeing someone else vomit will start you vomiting, in your body's effort to protect you from possible exposure to the same danger.
Vomiting is common. Almost all children will vomit several times during their childhood. In most cases, it is due to a viral gastrointestinal infection.
Spitting up, the gentle sloshing of stomach contents up and out of the mouth, sometimes with a burp, is an entirely different process. Some spitting up is normal for babies, and usually gets gradually better over time. If spitting up worsens or is more frequent, it might be reflux disease. Discuss this with your child's doctor.
Most of the time, nausea and vomiting do not require urgent medical attention. However, if the symptoms continue for days, they are severe, or you cannot keep down any food or fluids, you may have a more serious condition.
The following are possible causes of vomiting:
These are possible causes of vomiting in infants (0 - 6 months):
Call the doctor immediately or take the child to an emergency care facility if you suspect poisoning or drug ingestion.
Proctor DD. Approach to the patient with gastrointestinal disease. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 134.
This article uses information by permission from Alan Greene, M.D., © Greene Ink, Inc.
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