When to See a Doctor for Vomiting and Diarrhea

When To See Your Doctor

Sick young woman leaning on bathroom wall by toilet
Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Vomiting and diarrhea can be troublesome symptoms but they are also common with stomach viruses. Most of the time these symptoms don't warrant a trip to the doctor but sometimes things aren't so clear cut. So how do you know when you should see a doctor for your vomiting or diarrhea and when it's okay to treat it at home? These tips should help.

Get Help Right Away

You should seek medical attention immediately if you have vomiting or diarrhea and:

  • Severe stomach pain
  • Severe headache
  • You are vomiting blood or have large amounts of blood in your stool
  • Confusion
  • A significant head injury in past 24 hours

Call Your Doctor

You may not need to head to the ER, but you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider if you have vomiting or diarrhea and:

  • You are unable to control your symptoms
  • You have diabetes
  • You have these symptoms after traveling
  • You have prolonged changes in your bowel habits
  • Your skin or eyes begins to look yellow
  • Your bowel movements are gray, white or greasy
  • You have signs of dehydration such as no urine output for 12 hours, dizziness or fainting when standing up and exhaustion

When Kids Are Vomiting

Because children are more susceptible to dehydration from vomiting and diarrhea, your child's healthcare provider should be contacted if your child has vomiting or diarrhea and any of the above problems or:

  • Fever (over 100 rectally if under 3 months, over 102 for children over 3 months)
  • Is less than 6 months old
  • Chronic medical problems or was born prematurely
  • Visible blood in the stool or vomit
  • A substantial amount of vomit or diarrhea
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Signs of dehydration (no urine output in 8 hours, sunken eyes, dry or sticky mouth, little or no tears)
  • Change in behavior (increased irritability or lethargy)
  • Vomit that is green or dark yellow

Children, especially infants and babies, are at high risk for dehydration when they have vomiting and diarrhea. If your child is vomiting and can't keep any fluids down, contact her health care provider.

Want to know more? Evaluate Your Vomiting by taking a step by step look at how it started, what is happening now and what you can do to feel better.

If you are concerned about your vomiting or diarrhea, always consult with your health care provider for further guidance.

Sources:

"Nausea and Vomiting." Familydoctor.org 1996. American Academy of Family Physicians. 24 Oct 2006.

"Diarrhea." Familydoctor.org 1996. American Academy of Family Physicians. 24 Oct 2006.

King, Caleb MD et al. "Managing acute gastroenteritis among children: oral rehydration, maintenance, and nutritional therapy." MMWR 2003;52(No. RR-16):1-13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 22 July 08.

Continue Reading