When should a doctor be consulted?

The timing of the nausea or vomiting can indicate the cause. When it appears shortly after a meal, nausea or vomiting may indicate a mental disorder or a peptic ulcer. Nausea or vomiting one to eight hours after a meal may indicate food poisoning. Foodborne diseases, such as Salmonella, may take longer to produce symptoms because of the incubation time.

A person who is experiencing nausea should consult a physician if it lasts more than one week, and if there is a possibility of pregnancy. Vomiting usually lessens within six to 24 hours, and may be treated at home.

You should see your doctor if home treatment is not working, dehydration is present, or a known injury (such as head injury or infection) is causing the vomiting.

Take your infant or a child under 6 years old to the doctor if:

  • Vomiting lasts more than a few hours
  • Diarrhea is also present
  • Signs of dehydration occur
  • There is a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The child hasn't urinated for six hours

Take your child over 6 years old to the doctor if:

  • Vomiting lasts one day
  • Diarrhea combined with vomiting lasts for more than 24 hours
  • There are signs of dehydration
  • There is a fever higher than 102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • The child hasn't urinated for six hours

Adults should consult a doctor if vomiting occurs for more than one day, if diarrhea and vomiting last more than 24 hours, and if there are signs of moderate dehydration.

You should see a doctor immediately if the following signs or symptoms occur:

  • Blood in the vomit ("coffee grounds" appearance)
  • Severe headache or stiff neck
  • Lethargy
  • Confusion
  • Decreased alertness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting with fever over 101 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Vomiting and diarrhea are both present
  • Rapid breathing or pulse

Are there complications from prolonged nausea or vomiting?

Persistent vomiting combined with diarrhea can result in dehydration. More aggressive treatment may be necessary for younger children or anyone with severe dehydration.

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