What causes recurrent episodes of severe vomiting and how to treat it?

Symptom Database

Recurring episodes of severe vomiting can be a distressing and debilitating condition. Chronic vomiting, also known as recurrent vomiting, can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and may be indicative of an underlying medical issue. Understanding the causes of severe vomiting episodes and how to effectively treat them is crucial for managing this condition. In this article, we will explore the various factors that can contribute to recurrent vomiting and discuss potential treatment options.

Causes of Severe Vomiting

Severe vomiting episodes can be caused by a range of factors, including:

  • Food poisoning: Consuming contaminated food or beverages can lead to severe vomiting.
  • Gastroenteritis: This viral or bacterial infection of the stomach and intestines can cause recurrent vomiting.
  • Migraines: Some individuals experience severe vomiting as a symptom of migraines.
  • Pregnancy: Morning sickness, characterized by recurrent vomiting, is common during the early stages of pregnancy.
  • Medication side effects: Certain medications can trigger severe vomiting as a side effect.
  • Gastroparesis: This condition occurs when the stomach muscles do not function properly, leading to delayed emptying and recurrent vomiting.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD): Chronic acid reflux can cause severe vomiting episodes.
  • Psychological factors: Stress, anxiety, and certain mental health conditions can contribute to recurrent vomiting.

Treatment for Recurrent Vomiting

Managing and treating recurrent vomiting depends on identifying and addressing the underlying cause. Here are some potential treatment options:

1. Addressing Food Poisoning

If food poisoning is the cause of severe vomiting, it is essential to stay hydrated and rest. Avoid solid foods until the vomiting subsides, and gradually reintroduce bland, easily digestible foods.

2. Managing Gastroenteritis

For viral gastroenteritis, treatment typically involves rest, hydration, and over-the-counter medications to alleviate symptoms. Bacterial gastroenteritis may require antibiotics prescribed by a healthcare professional.

3. Treating Migraines

If severe vomiting is associated with migraines, various medications can help manage both the migraines and the accompanying vomiting. Consult a healthcare professional for appropriate treatment options.

For pregnant individuals experiencing severe vomiting, lifestyle modifications such as eating small, frequent meals and avoiding triggers can help alleviate symptoms. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage morning sickness.

5. Managing Medication Side Effects

If severe vomiting is a side effect of medication, consult the prescribing healthcare professional. They may adjust the dosage or switch to an alternative medication to minimize this symptom.

6. Treating Gastroparesis

Gastroparesis treatment aims to improve stomach emptying and manage symptoms. Dietary changes, such as consuming smaller, more frequent meals, and medications that stimulate stomach contractions may be prescribed.

7. Addressing GERD

Managing GERD involves lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding trigger foods, elevating the head of the bed, and taking over-the-counter antacids. In more severe cases, prescription medications or surgical interventions may be necessary.

8. Managing Psychological Factors

For individuals experiencing recurrent vomiting due to psychological factors, therapy, stress management techniques, and medication may be recommended. It is crucial to address the underlying mental health condition to alleviate symptoms.


Recurrent episodes of severe vomiting can have various causes, ranging from food poisoning to psychological factors. Identifying the underlying cause is essential for effective treatment. By addressing the specific cause, whether it be through lifestyle modifications, medication, or other interventions, individuals can find relief from chronic vomiting and improve their overall well-being. If you are experiencing recurrent vomiting, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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