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Self-Care for Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting and diarrhea can make you miserable. Your stomach and bowels are reacting to an irritant. This might be food, medicine, or viral stomach flu. Vomiting and diarrhea are two ways your body can remove the problem from your system. Nausea is a symptom that discourages you from eating. This gives your stomach and bowels time to recover. To get back to normal, start with self-care to ease your discomfort.

Woman drinking large glass of water

Drink liquids

Drink or sip liquids to avoid losing too much fluid (dehydration):

  • Clear liquids such as water or broth are the best choices.

  • Do not drink beverages with a lot of sugar in them, such as juices and sodas. These can make diarrhea worse.

  • If you have severe vomiting, do not drink sport drinks, such as electrolyte solutions. These don't have the right mix of water, sugar, and minerals. They can also make the symptoms worse. In this situation, commercially available oral rehydration solutions are best. 

  • Suck on ice chips if the thought of drinking something makes you queasy.

When you’re able to eat again

Tips include the following:

  • As your appetite comes back, you can resume your normal diet.

  • Ask your healthcare provider whether you should stay away from any foods.

Medicines

Know the following about medicines:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea are ways your body uses to rid itself of harmful substances such as bacteria. DO NOT use antidiarrheal or antivomiting (antiemetic) medicines unless your healthcare provider tells you to do so.

  • Aspirin, medicine with aspirin, and many aspirin substitutes can irritate your stomach. So avoid them when you have stomach upset.

  • Certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines can cause vomiting and diarrhea. Talk with your healthcare provider about any medicines you take that may be causing these symptoms.

  • Certain over-the-counter antihistamines can help control nausea. Other medicines can help soothe stomach upset. Ask your healthcare provider which medicines may help you.

When to call your healthcare provider

Call your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Bloody or black vomit or stools

  • Severe, steady belly pain

  • Vomiting with a severe headache or vomiting after a head injury

  • Vomiting and diarrhea together for more than an hour

  • An inability to hold down even sips of liquids for more than 12 hours

  • Vomiting that lasts more than 24 hours

  • Severe diarrhea that lasts more than 2 days

  • Yellowish color to your skin or the whites of your eyes

  • Inability to urinate. In infants and young children, not making wet diapers. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Kolbus, Karin, RN, DNP, COHN-S
Online Medical Reviewer: Lehrer, Jenifer, MD
Last Review Date: 6/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.