When Should You Call a Medical Professional For Nausea and Vomiting?

Few symptoms are worse than nausea and vomiting, but luckily, most vomiting is short-lived. Your symptoms run their course in a day or two, and you feel better. But what if vomiting is severe or you have belly pain? What if it lasts for days? Calling a medical professional may be necessary in some situations.   

Non-Emergency Causes of Nausea and Vomiting

My oldest child vomited often and for a variety of reasons. Whether he had a bad day at school, a nightmare, or intense crying, vomiting was his reaction. I learned early on that nausea and vomiting can be related to a wide range of conditions.  

  1. Morning sickness troubles women in early pregnancy. The following tips can help manage morning sickness:
  • Eat several small meals per day.
  • Avoid greasy or spicy foods.
  • Snack on dry saltine crackers.
  • Try ginger products such as tea, carbonated drinks, or hard candies.

Hyperemesis gravidarum is severe, uncontrolled nausea and vomiting during pregnancy. This condition can lead to weight loss, dehydration, and abnormal lab values. In severe cases, doctors prescribe medication and intravenous fluids.

  1. Nausea and vomiting go hand in hand with migraine headaches. Avoid known triggers, such as chocolate, alcohol, and processed foods, and intervene at the first sign of a headache.
  • Turn the lights low.
  • Sip a drink with caffeine.
  • Apply a cold compress.
  • Try over-the-counter pain relievers.
  • Use prescription medication as directed.

  1. Emotional stress or anxiety can trigger nausea. Use these exercises and foods to calm your stomach:
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Clear fluids
  • Bland foods
  • Peppermint

  1. Motion sickness results when the motion the eyes see is different from what the inner ear senses. Treat this type of nausea by doing the following:
  • Ride in the front seat or choose a window seat.
  • Try ginger products like capsules or chews.
  • Wear acupressure wristbands.
  • Take nonprescription medication such as dimenhydrinate or meclizine.
  • For severe motion sickness, wear a Transderm Scop (transdermal scopolamine) patch. This patch works for 72 hours and is available by prescription.

How Can I Tell the Difference Between a Stomach Virus and Something More Serious?

Stomach viruses are prevalent and affect most of us at some point. Gastroenteritis, or the "stomach flu," is a viral infection in the gastrointestinal tract. Norovirus is the most common, with 1 in 15 people becoming sick yearly in the US. Symptoms include nausea and vomiting, fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.

A stomach virus is best treated with rest and fluids. Sip on Gatorade or Pedialyte to replace electrolytes. High-fluid foods such as gelatin, popsicles, soup, and fruit are also well-tolerated.

Don't progress your diet too soon. Once you can drink without vomiting, advance to bland foods like crackers, oatmeal, or boiled potatoes. As you recover, the BRAT diet (Bananas, Rice, Apples, Toast) can help transition your body back to normal eating.

Prolonged vomiting, high fevers, severe abdominal pain, or seizures are serious signs and need immediate medical attention.

What Should I Do If I’m Vomiting and Have a Fever?

What is a fever in adults? Temperatures less than 100.4°F are low-grade and are not alarming. A moderate fever is 100.6-102.2°F, and a high fever is 102.4°F and up. Fevers due to the "stomach" flu and other symptoms usually run their course in a few days.

Children's fever concerns depend on the child’s age. Call your doctor for the following temperatures:

  • Fever of 100.4°F or more in a baby under three months old
  • Fever over 102°F in a 3-6 month-old baby
  • Fever over 102°F for over a day or so in toddlers up to two years old

It's likely nothing to worry about, but call your doctor to be on the safe side. Most fevers respond to Tylenol, Advil, cool compresses, and plenty of fluids.

What Should I Do If I Experience Nausea and Vomiting for More Than 24 Hours?

The most severe complication of persistent vomiting is dehydration. Dehydration is the harmful absence of enough water in your body. Young children and the elderly are especially prone to this condition. Call your doctor if any of these warning signs of dehydration are present:

  • Not peeing as much as usual
  • Infants with fewer than six wet diapers per day
  • Toddlers with no wet diapers or no urine for eight hours
  • Tearless crying
  • Sunken eyes
  • Low or sunken soft spot on the top of a baby's head
  • Dizziness
  • Increased thirst
  • Dark colored urine
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Headache or confusion
  • Parched mouth

Signs That Indicate I Should Call a Medical Professional for Nausea and Vomiting

You can usually successfully treat nausea and vomiting at home without lasting effects. However, some situations need prompt medical attention.

  • Nausea and vomiting accompanied by abdominal pain can mean appendicitis or gallbladder trouble.
  • Blood in the vomit or vomit resembling coffee grounds might mean bleeding in the stomach.
  • Dehydration, as described above, requires medical attention.
  • Immediately report known or suspected poisoning, such as ingesting medications or chemicals.
  • Severe abdominal pain needs an evaluation. 
  • Uncontrolled nausea and vomiting while undergoing chemotherapy often require treatment.
  • Vomiting associated with a recent head injury may be a concussion or brain injury.
  • Persistent constipation with vomiting may be a sign of a bowel obstruction.
  • Vomiting coupled with a headache and stiff neck may signal meningitis.
  • Severe vomiting can be associated with heavy marijuana use.
  • Vomiting with high fever and seizures or irritability is severe.

Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms with a wide range of causes. Experiencing nausea and vomiting is not fun, but it’s usually not serious and resolves swiftly. Whether your symptoms are due to morning sickness, the flu, or something more worrisome, these tips will help you decide if you should call a medical professional.


Harvard Health Publishing. (2023). Fever in Adults: When to Worry. 

HealthyChildren.Org. (2019, September 24). Signs of Dehydration in Infants and Children. 

Jennings, L., & Mahdy, H. (2022). Hyperemesis Gravidarum. StatPearls Publishing.,nausea%20and%20vomiting%20in%20pregnancy 

National Foundation for Infectious Diseases. (2023, March). Norovirus. 

Juli Curtis

About the Author

Juli Curtis BSN, RN is a freelance health and wellness writer and the owner of Write Health Right Now, LLC. She has been a nurse for over 30 years and enjoys travel, interesting food, and nonfiction.  She lives near Little Rock, AR with her boxers Manny and Rizzo.