• Vomiting is throwing up the stomach's contents. Dry heaves may precede or follow vomiting.
  • Nausea is when you fell like you're going to throw up.
  • Diarrhea is the passage of any loose, watery or unformed bowel movements.

Symptoms

  • Vomiting stomach contents
  • Frequent watery, loose stools
  • Cramping or pain in the abdomen
  • Occasional fever

Causes

  • "Stomach flu," which is a viral infection of the intestines
  • Spoiled food, contaminated water, or infections from bacteria or parasites that affect the digestive tract
  • Overuse of alcohol or laxatives
  • A side effect of some medicines
  • Lactose intolerance or a food allergy
  • Emotional upsets or acute stress
  • Eating or drinking too much

Diarrhea is also a symptom of health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome. It results in irregular bowel habits and pain that are not due to any other bowel disease.

Vomiting is a symptom of serious medical conditions, as well. These include:

  • Labrynthitis, inflammation of an area in the ear that usually results from a respiratory infection
  • A concussion from a head injury
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Hepatitis, inflammation of the liver
  • Meningitis, inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord.

Prevention

  • Wash hands after going to the bathroom and before eating
  • Avoid contact with anyone with "stomach flu"
  • When traveling, find out if you should avoid drinking the water

Self-care

  • Drink clear liquids
  • Avoid milk and milk products for 24-48 hours
  • Gradually return to regular diet, usually within 12 hours - start with foods like bananas, rice, toast, crackers and other high carbohydrate foods
  • Don't smoke or drink alcohol

Treatment

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever, but do not take aspirin
  • Try an over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medicine
  • Diagnostic tests may include blood work and/or laboratory study of the stool

Notify or seek medical attention if:

  • Diarrhea lasts more than 48 hours
  • Vomiting bright red blood
  • Fever rises to 100 degrees or higher
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Dehydration develops

Symptoms of dehydration

  • Sunken, dry eyes
  • Dry mouth, tongue and lips
  • No urine or a small amount that is dark yellow
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness, confusion, weakness
  • Increase in breathing and heart rate
  • Severe thirst