If you’ve caught an intestinal flu and the vomiting seems relentless, how do you know when a trip to the emergency room is necessary? Gastroenterologist Christine Lee, MD, offers some advice, saying GI issues like vomiting are common with wide ranges in causes.
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“Potential causes very widely with long list of possible explanations” she says.
Dr. Lee adds that there are limitations with trying to find the cause for vomiting over the phone, but some classic alarm features to ask for when determining if an emergency room visit is necessary are if you’re unable to keep anything down, your symptoms escalate or you experience any of the following:
Vomiting can be caused by an infection (stomach flu) or a mild case of food poisoning.
To treat it:
However, if the vomiting fails to improve or resolve, you may need to seek medical help, as it could be a sign of other issues. If you’re experiencing an extended period of vomiting and dehydration becomes a concern, you may need to seek medical attention.
For the most part, if you have uncontrolled vomiting for extended periods of time where you can’t keep anything down, you should go to the emergency room. This is especially true for the very young, the elderly, or those with severe underlying health conditions, Dr. Lee says.
“The young and the old are more susceptible to complications from dehydration,” she says. “They are more vulnerable to kidney failure or electrolyte imbalances that can become serious.”
There are several questions a doctor on call will ask (and you can ask yourself) in determining what the cause might be, as well as the most prudent course of action, Dr. Lee says.
Ask yourself these questions to see if you should visit the emergency room:
Use these questions to help you identify red flags — reasons to visit an ER for vomiting rather than riding it out. If you are ever in doubt, call your doctor.