Vomiting and Diarrhea: When to Seek Medical Help

Mar 19, 2022


Family Health Care

Vomiting and Diarrhea: When to Seek Medical Help

While food poisoning, intestinal infections, and medications can cause these symptoms, seasons also play a vital role. Norovirus, the major cause of acute gastroenteritis (that causes vomiting and diarrhea), annually affects 19-21 million people in the US, resulting in 465,000 ER visits (mostly in young children). In temperate climates, bacterial diarrhea outbreaks are common in summer, whereas viral diarrhea peaks in winter.

What Can Cause Vomiting and Diarrhea at the Same Time?

#1: Viral Gastroenteritis

Commonly known as the stomach flu, it is a viral infection affecting your intestines. Viruses causing gastroenteritis are adenovirus, norovirus, rotavirus, and astrovirus.

Read here if you’re infected with Norovirus and possible treatment.

#2: Traveler’s diarrhea

It is a digestive tract disorder caused by parasites, viruses, or bacteria present in food or water. It usually resolves within 2-3 days.

#3: Food Poisoning

It is an infection of the gut caused by several bacteria, including listeria, E.coli, shigella, salmonella, campylobacter, and staphylococcus

#4: Pregnancy

Pregnancy causes morning sickness and hyperemesis gravidarum, leading to vomiting and diarrhea. Hormonal imbalances, diet changes, food sensitivities, and taking prenatal vitamins during pregnancy can also result in vomiting and diarrhea.

#5: Anxiety or Stress

When you are anxious or stressed, your body releases hormones or chemicals that impact your gastrointestinal function, causing vomiting and diarrhea.

#6: Overdrinking or Overeating

Excessive drinking or eating can cause vomiting and diarrhea, along with heartburn, belching, indigestion, and a feeling of fullness in the stomach.

#7: Medications

You may experience diarrhea and vomiting as side effects of some medications, including antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.

When to See a Doctor

Generally, vomiting and diarrhea are benign and can be resolved by over-the-counter medications and oral rehydration solutions. However, an adult or child experiencing the following symptoms may require immediate medical intervention to avoid further health complications, including dehydration.


  • High fever
  • Frequent vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Diarrhea lasting more than two days
  • Severe pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Lack of energy
  • Blood or pus in the stool

Infants and Children

  • Diarrhea that persists more than a day
  • Fever around 100.4°F (38°C) or 102.2°F (39°C)
  • Severe abdominal or rectal pain
  • Blood or pus in the stool
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Changes in the child’s mental state, such as unusual or strange behavior
  • Vomit appearing yellow or green

What to Expect at a Doctor Visit

Your healthcare provider will diagnose vomiting and diarrhea by reviewing your symptoms and performing a physical examination to look for signs of dehydration, including dry skin, sunken eyes, cracked lips, excessive sweating, dizziness, fatigue, etc. They may also order blood and urine tests to look for signs of bacterial or viral infections.

Depending on the root cause of the vomiting and diarrhea, your doctor may recommend any of the following treatment options:

Over-the-Counter Medications

Your doctor may prescribe the following over-the-counter medicines to treat vomiting and diarrhea.

  • Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol, Kaopectate)
  • Antiemetic drugs, such as Dramamine and Gravol
  • Loperamide (Imodium)


Antibiotics are prescribed to treat vomiting and diarrhea caused by bacterial infections (food poisoning).

Fluid Replacements

Your doctor will recommend you to replace lost fluids and electrolytes if you have had several episodes of vomiting or diarrhea.

Adjusting Medications

If your medications have caused vomiting and diarrhea, your doctor may adjust their doses or prescribe alternate drugs.

Treating Underlying Conditions

Your doctor will treat your underlying conditions (if any, including: stress, anxiety, or inflammatory bowel disease) that cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Possible Health Complications If Left Untreated

Severe bouts of untreated vomiting and diarrhea can cause severe health complications, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Fainting
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities

So, if you have persistent vomiting, diarrhea, or both, visit one of our urgent care clinics in Irvine, Costa Mesa, or Fountain Valley, CA, right away. As we accept walk-in patients, we will quickly attend to you while ensuring appropriate diagnosis and treatment. You can also reserve your spot online to avoid wait times.



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