It’s that feeling you wish you’d never had. You’re suddenly queasy. Your digestive system shifts violently into reverse. And that meal you just swallowed comes back to see the light of day.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Vomiting is definitely not fun. But it has a purpose. “Vomiting is a reflex that allows the body to rid itself of ingested toxins and poisons,” says family medicine physician Matthew Goldman, MD.
When vomiting happens fairly often, it’s important to determine why and to get it under control. “Vomiting can make people severely dehydrated, which can lead to serious complications,” he says.
“Our bodies depend on good circulation to carry oxygen and nutrients around. If there’s not enough fluid, circulation doesn’t happen. And that can be life-threatening.”
That doesn’t mean you should run to the doctor every time you vomit. But when vomiting is frequent or prolonged, you’ll need to know what’s causing it so you can feel better.
It’s a complicated process
Although it’s your belly in distress, “it is changes in your immune and/or nervous system that trigger the vomiting reflex,” says Dr. Goldman.
Neurochemicals can travel different pathways to activate receptors that start the vomiting process.
A trigger zone in your brain may pick up immune changes, or sense the presence of drugs or toxins. Or the medulla (part of your brainstem) may gather relevant information from different parts of your body. Or your vagus nerve, which runs from your brainstem to your GI tract, may signal that something is abnormal in your gut.
But the end result is always the same: Your last meal rockets up — and out.
Vomiting has many causes
Dr. Goldman says that common causes of vomiting in adults include:
When to see the doctor
Sometimes an upset stomach is harmless. Having one episode of vomiting isn’t usually concerning, Dr. Goldman says. You throw up and then immediately feel better.
But other times, vomiting requires medical attention. “If you’re still vomiting after two days — especially if you have significant chest or belly pain — you should see your doctor,” he says.
If these symptoms accompany vomiting, seek medical attention:
- Blood (black specks may resemble coffee grounds) in vomit
- Black, tarry bowel movements
- A fever of 101° or higher
- Significant headaches
- A stiff neck
- Dehydration, dry mouth or excessive thirst
- Muscle cramping
- Dizziness or difficulty standing
- Dark urine or no urination in more than five hours
How to recover from vomiting
Make hydration your main focus after a bout of vomiting, says Dr. Goldman. Drink clear fluids (water, diluted juices, ginger ale), and eat foods that are mostly liquid (Jell-O®, clear broth, popsicles).
Ease yourself back into your regular diet with small amounts of bland foods (plain yogurt, plain oatmeal, grits, bread, crackers). Avoid fatty foods; they digest more slowly and can cause nausea. Steer clear of sugar, and sugary or caffeinated drinks, which can cause dehydration.
It’s also helpful to avoid strong smells, which may trigger your gag reflex.
But don’t hesitate to see your doctor if you aren’t getting better. “If you can’t keep anything down, come in and get IV fluids and medication,” he says. “You might even need to have some imaging done to help pinpoint the problem.”
How to prevent vomiting
Implementing a few good habits can help you steer clear of vomiting in many cases.
Your best defense against stomach viruses and bacteria is to wash your hands regularly. Use soap and warm water for at least 30 seconds. Scrub your fingernails, and in between your fingers as well.
To prevent food poisoning, keep tabs on expiration dates. Discard any unused food that’s past its prime.
If you get motion sickness or seasickness, take medication to stop nausea before it starts. If you feel a migraine coming on, take your headache medication at the earliest warning sign.
Finally, tell your doctor when pain is intolerable. He or she can help you find ways to minimize it. And if your medication is making you queasy, ask your doctor about alternative options.
Type of Vomiting in Cats
There are three reasons why a cat vomits: on occasion (also known as feline vomiting), acute feline vomiting, or chronic feline vomiting.
Like other animals, cat’s vomit on occasion. On occasion – or feline vomiting – often happens once or twice a month for some cats. However, other cats may only vomit once or twice per year.
Acute feline vomiting typically appears very suddenly and is not pleasant for your cat. It can also involve a significant amount of vomit or projectile vomiting (you’re welcome we did not include a picture).
Chronic feline vomiting happens regularly – typically more than several times per week. While it can be scary, sometimes chronic vomiting doesn’t even phase your cat!
A Symptom of a Bigger Problem? What Causes Vomiting in Cats?
One of the most common causes of vomiting in cats is eating too much food, too fast. You’ll find what is known as regurgitation near your cat’s food bowl when this happens. When a cat’s stomach wall expands too fast, the brain receives a signal, causing regurgitation.
Unlike vomiting, regurgitation doesn’t cause the cat to open their mouth – the fluid and food is brought up from their esophagus. According to DVM Dr. Sara Stephens, “Cats that eat too quickly because they are gluttonous or stressed by food bowl competition can regurgitate right after eating.”
However, regurgitation isn’t always innocent – it can be due to esophageal issues, digestive tract obstruction, dehydration, or hairballs.
Cat Not Eating?
In addition to eating too quickly, cats vomit after eating something they shouldn’t. For example, cats love to get into toilet paper, grass, and even carpet – all things that can cause an upset stomach! All of which can also play in part of NOT eating!
But, curiosity can mean something more – especially when they ingest objects like strings, toy parts, or even feathers. Cats often vomit excessively when they eat something that can become lodged in their stomach. In this case, take your cat to the vet immediately as surgery is often necessary.
Cats may also vomit due to a bacterium, viral, or parasitic infection. Gastrointestinal parasites may also cause a cat to chronically vomit as they cannot digest their food properly.
Chronic diseases, such as acute kidney failure, colitis, gallbladder inflammation, pancreatitis, and gastritis, can be a symptom of a cat vomiting. Your veterinarian will help evaluate if your cat has a chronic disease.
Furthermore, a change in diet can set off your cat throwing up. Switching up your cat’s meals can cause nausea and vomiting. And, if you recently had to put your cat on a new feline medication, it could easily cause an upset stomach.
Cat Throwing up Food!
Cats throwing up undigested food is quite common and often harmless. When cats vomit their food, it is often because they ate too much, too fast.
When a cat is vomiting up food, diet change can be to blame – especially in cats with sensitive stomachs. Furthermore, food allergies can be to blame. For example, a cat can be intolerant or allergic to a particular ingredient in their food. Common cat allergies include fish, beef, eggs, milk, and wheat.
Cat Puking? Why is The Cat Vomiting Foam?
While a human vomiting white foam is often a sign of illness, a cat vomiting foam is quite common. A cat vomiting foam is most commonly associated with hairballs. Other reasons cat vomit foam includes a change in diet or stomach inflammation.
Dietary changes can cause white foam vomit as some cats may resist a change in diet. Cats might skip meals or eat their meal later than normal if you change their diet unexpectedly. When feeding them a new food – especially when it is not introduced slowly – their bodies have no warning and will not produce the digestive juices needed to break down food – whether they eat the new food or not.
White foam vomit can also occur if you unexpectedly change their eating schedule.
Stomach inflammation – or gastritis – can cause white foam vomit as well. Gastritis is commonly seen with lack of appetite. And, your cat may vomit bile or blood in addition to white foam.
If your cat is vomiting white foam due to a hairball, you probably don’t need to be concerned. But, if they are vomiting from gastritis, a trip to the vet may be in your best interest.
When It’s Safe to Make Yourself Throw Up
Photo credit: Let how
First and foremost, you should consult with your physician and poison control center before trying to induce vomiting.
Most of the time, it’s safe to induce vomiting when you have eaten spoiled or rotten food that is starting to make you ill, if your body doesn’t do it naturally.
It’s also relatively safe to throw up if you have ingested a non-corrosive poison, such as cyanide, heroin, pills, or other drugs.
Methods to Make Yourself Throw Up Instantly
There are dozens of folk remedies to make yourself throw up, however, most of them can be ineffective or have negative side effects.
The safest and most effective methods are the following:
Use Your Index Finger
Photo credit: Iatrikanea
The quickest way to make yourself throw up is to use clean fingers to trigger your gag reflex.
Here’s how to do it:
- Wash your hands and cut your nails to avoid scratching your throat.
- Pull your hair up (if you have long hair) to get it out of your way.
- Choose where you’re going to vomit. It can either be in the toilet, a bucket, or one of these great disposable vomit bags
- Sit down or kneel in a way that doesn’t press your abdominal area, you don’t want extra pressure over your stomach.
- Insert your index finger into your mouth and reach towards the back of the throat.
- Press the finger down in the back of your throat as far as needed to trigger your gag reflex.
- Once you start feeling nausea, remove the finger quickly. You’ll likely throw up right away.
- If you feel nausea but can’t throw up, try once again.
- Wash your hands after vomiting.
- Rinse your mouth and do gargles with plain water to remove leftover stomach acid from your mouth and throat.
- Don’t brush your teeth until 30 minutes after you throw up. Your enamel will be sensitive after coming into contact with your stomach acid.
- If you can’t trigger your gag reflex this way, try the methods described below.
Watch Other People Throw Up
Photo credit: World Magacy
Another quick way to induce nausea is to watch other people vomit. This can trigger a strong urge to throw up as well. You can watch videos of other people throwing up to achieve this.
If this isn’t enough to trigger your gag reflex, use your index finger as explained above.
If you’d rather not use your finger or have almost no gag reflex, take emetics instead. Emetics areover-the-counter drugs that trigger vomiting by causing contractions in your stomach.
The most common emetic is syrup of ipecac.
However, there’s controversy over the safety of ipecac, since it can be toxic in high doses. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not to stock it at home. To prevent side effects, drink only in small amounts.
Follow these steps if you have decided to take ipecac:
- Follow the directions on the syrup bottle.
- Drink 1 to 2 glasses of water or 8 to 16 ounces after taking ipecac syrup.
- If vomiting doesn’t occur within 30 minutes, repeat the dose.
- If the second dose doesn’t work, contact your doctor immediately.
- Avoid taking syrup of ipecac if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
- Don’t give to children under 12 years of age.
- Ipecac syrup could cause drowsiness, dizziness, rashes, and allergic reactions.
Ineffective Remedies To Avoid
Folk remedies to help you throw up are not always effective or safe. They can have side effects you need to take into consideration before trying them.
Anecdotally, these remedies have helped people throw up easily, but there’s no scientific evidence to back up their safety.
Some of the most common recommendations include:
Photo credit: Organic Oil Store
A mustard solution is meant to work in a similar way to the salt water solution. The method is to mix one tablespoon of mustard spread in a glass of warm water, drink the solution, and wait 30 minutes for it to take effect.
The unpleasant taste should make you feel like throwing up. As of right now, there’s no scientific evidence to support its effectiveness or guarantee its safety.
Photo credit: Natural Health 365
Bloodroot is a medicinal herb that was used by Native Americans to treat fever, cancers, and induce vomiting. The method consists of boiling 1 teaspoon of bloodroot roots in one cup of water. After boiling, let it steep for 20 minutes, strain the tea, and drink it warm.
However, bloodroot has toxic components that make it unsafe to use. High concentrations of bloodroot can cause death. Consult with your physician before trying bloodroot.
If you do choose to go the bloodroot herb root, this Bloodroot Extract is a great choice.
Photo credit: Conscious Health
Some websites advise overeating as a way to induce nausea and vomiting. This method is highly ineffective because it can promote the absorption and digestion of the substances you’re trying to get rid of in the first place. If you can’t vomit by overeating, you’ll only end up bloated and with severe discomfort.
The Side Effects Of Throwing Up
Photo credit: Abigail Steidley
Throwing up can have the following effects on your body:
Dehydration. Your body loses significant water content when you vomit.
Burns in the esophagus. The stomach acid can cause inflammation, swelling, and burns in your esophagus. This is called esophagitis.
Aspiration. Some of the vomit can reach your airways and lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. Aspiration can cause swelling and infections in your airways.
Tooth enamel erosion. Stomach acid can soften and erode your tooth enamel.
Tears in the esophagus. This is a severe side effect that happens less often. If you vomit violently and forcefully, the esophagus could tear. Esophageal rupture can cause saliva, food, and vomit to leak into the chest cavity. This condition needs to be addressed by a doctor.
Why is My Cat Throwing Up Water?
Vomiting can be due to a number of different causes. When a cat owner says “My cat threw up water”, it could mean two things. Either the cat vomited water that he drank or vomited stomach juice which is colorless and watery in appearance. When there is something in the stomach that can cause irritation and inflammation, the cat will throw up gastric juice, which to the owner will look like water. Common stomach irritants are hairballs, foul food, human medicines, poisonous substances, and foreign objects like strings and plastics. Diseases of the stomach like cancer can cause a build-up of toxins in the blood due to Chronic Renal Failure. This leads to irritation of the stomach, occasionally resulting in the cat vomiting gastric juices.
If your cat threw up water it could be due to the enlargement of its stomach. When a cat drinks too much water too fast, the stomach becomes filled up with water, will be stretched and enlarged causing the cat to throw up water. Conditions that can cause increased thirst and consequently increased water consumption include kidney disease, hyperthyroidism and diabetes mellitus. Tumors and foreign bodies that block the passage of food and water in the stomach can likewise make the stomach distended causing the cat to vomit any water it swallows. Other causes of a cat throwing up water include diseases of the pancreas, motion sickness, excitement and fear to name a few.
What Can I Do?
If a cat threw up water, its home-care should begin with giving its stomach a break by fasting for 12 to 24 hours. Offer ice cubes for the cat to lick so that he will not get dehydrated but at the same time not swallow too much water to stretch the stomach and trigger vomiting. If the cat is not vomiting after the fast period, offer a bland diet like rice with boiled skinless chicken in small amounts every 4 hours for 24-48 hours. You can also start to give small amounts of water at a time to see if the cat can hold it down. Another option is to give limited access to a cat water fountain.
If your cat threw up water during or after the fast, take you should take the cat to the vet. Here he can be given medicine to control the vomiting and fluids to correct dehydration. Provide the veterinarian as much accurate information as you can about the problem and other symptoms you might have noticed. The veterinarian will perform a physical examination and order tests to determine the cause and give appropriate medication.