Diarrhea is loose and watery stool during a bowel movement. Vomiting or throwing up is a forceful discharge of stomach contents. Diarrhea and vomiting are usually symptoms of another issue.
Signs and symptoms
- Abdominal pain
- Nausea, vomiting
People may feel very sick and vomit many times a day. Most people improve within three days.
- Bacteria, parasites, viruses
- Food poisoning e.g. from food that has been improperly stored
- Consumption of irritating food, drink or medication
- Overeating or overdrinking (especially alcohol)
- Stress and anxiety
- Taking antibiotics recently
- A change to your diet
- Improper food handling
For vomiting, follow these instructions in order:
- Do not not or drink anything for several hours after vomiting
- Sip small amounts of water or suck ice chips every 15 minutes to 3-4 hours
- Next, sip clear liquids every 15 minutes for 3-4 hours. Examples include water, sport drinks, flat soda, clear broth, gelatin, flavored ice, popsicles or apple juice. Do not drink citrus juices or milk. Increase fluids as tolerated.
- When you can tolerate clear liquids for several hours without vomiting and if you’re hungry, try eating small amounts of bland foods or the BRAT diet:
- Dry Toast or soda crackers
For 24-48 hours after the last episode of vomiting, avoid foods that can irritate or may be difficult to digest such alcohol, caffeine, fats/oils, spicy food, milk or cheese. When you can tolerate bland food, you can resume your normal diet.
If diarrhea is the only symptom, try Imodium, a non-prescription (over-the-counter) medication available at the Nebraska Medicine University Health Center Pharmacy according to package directions. Follow a bland diet (see 4 above). After the passage of a soft, formed stool, you can resume a normal diet. Call 402.472.7477 for medical advice if you have no improvement within 48 hours after starting Imodium.
When to seek care
- Can't keep down liquids or food for more than 24 hours
- Have fever (101º F or 38.3º C or higher) with abdominal pain (may include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea)
- Have diarrhea for more than 3 days or without gradual improvement over 5 days
- Have signs of dehydration, for example, lightheadedness, decreased urination (no urination at least every 8 hours) or severe fatigue
- Took antibiotics recently
- Have bloody diarrhea
- Have abdominal pain that is not relieved by vomiting and/or diarrhea (that is, abdominal pain is unrelated to episodes of vomiting or diarrhea)
- Have insulin-dependent diabetes and experience vomiting, diarrhea or nausea
- Are unable to take medications that you usually take
- Recently traveled to a country that poses a health risk
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water and wash for at least 15 seconds, use alcohol-based hand gel
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces
- Keep dirty clothing separate from other clothing, and wash dirty clothing or linens in hot water
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick, if possible
- Immediately after an episode of illness, flush vomit and feces in the toilet and make sure that the surrounding area is clean
Nebraska Medicine University Health Center offers medical services to help students feel and stay well. Most services at the University Health Center require an appointment. Call 402.472.5000 to schedule an appointment. Telehealth visits are available depending on your symptoms. Learn more about hours.