Read below about projectile vomiting, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your projectile vomiting from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

This symptom can also be referred to as:
Forceful vomiting

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Projectile Vomiting Symptoms

Projectile vomiting is the uncontrollable and forceful extreme of "throwing up." Bouts of nausea are more common as a symptom than many other maladies, but when they lead to uncontrollable (and quite unpleasant) bouts of vomiting, we tend to become truly miserable.

Vomiting is used by the body to rid of toxins or poisons you may have ingested. Your body is trying to get rid of something that will cause harm or that it thinks may cause harm. And this reflex is even less pleasant when it is accidentally triggered by more innocuous events rather than something clearly dangerous.

Projectile vomiting may be associated with these common symptoms:

Projectile Vomiting Causes Overview

Environmental causes:

  • Toxins: Ingesting certain substances that your body recognizes as toxic can trigger a forceful and prompt vomiting response. This includes large amounts of alcohol.
  • Food poisoning: Certain bacteria on improperly handled food can create toxins either on the food or after they are eaten that trigger vomiting.
  • Drugs: Some pharmaceutical drugs can cause nausea or vomiting as a side effect.

Gastrointestinal disease:

  • Gastroenteritis: Viruses or bacteria can infect the stomach and lead to intractable rapid onset vomiting.
  • Chronic disease: Certain diseases that reduce motility of the stomach or cause inflammation can lead to nausea and vomiting for extended periods.
  • Other disorders: Your gastrointestinal tract is a complex piece of digestive machinery, and many organs contribute to its function. Dysfunction of any of these organs like the gall bladder or pancreas can cause vomiting.
  • Tumors: Tumors of the gastrointestinal tract can block the forward movement of the food you eat, resulting in reflux.

Other causes:

  • Metabolic: Imbalances in the levels of certain electrolytes and nutrients in your blood can cause vomiting.
  • Allergy: Nausea and vomiting is a component of severe allergic reaction in some individuals.
  • Pregnancy: While certainly not a "disease", the normal bodily changes of pregnancy can lead to imbalance in your gastrointestinal system, with resulting bouts of vomiting.
  • Nerve Disorders: Disorders of the brain or nerves responsible for balance in the inner ear can lead to vomiting similar to motion sickness.

8 Potential Projectile Vomiting Causes

  1. 1.Viral (Norovirus) Infection

    Noroviruses are a group of related viruses that leads to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and cramps. These viruses cause gastroenteritis, an inflammation of the stomach and intestines. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Usually resolves within 2-3 days.

    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (norovirus) infection:
    severe abdominal pain, throbbing headache, severe headache, tarry stool, vaginal bleeding, alertness level change
  2. 2.Viral (Rotavirus) Infection

    Rotavirus is a virus that causes an infection of the gut, known as gastroenteritis. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting and fever. When the diarrhea and/or vomiting is severe, dehydration can occur. Symptoms of dehydration include a dry mouth, dizziness, urinating less frequently and dark urine.

    Symptoms resolve on their own within a few days.

    Top Symptoms:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea, nausea, fatigue, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache
    Symptoms that always occur with viral (rotavirus) infection:
    diarrhea, vomiting or nausea
    Symptoms that never occur with viral (rotavirus) infection:
    constipation, tarry stool
  3. 3.Influenza

    Influenza, or Flu, is an infection of the airway caused by the flu virus, which passes through the air and enters the body through the nose or mouth. The symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but the flu is usually more serious.

    Most recover within 1 week but cough and malaise can persist for 2 weeks.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, cough, muscle aches
    Symptoms that never occur with influenza:
    headache resulting from a head injury
    Phone call or in-person visit
  4. 4.Uterine Fibroids

    Uterine fibroids are noncancerous tumors in the uterus. They are common in women of childbearing age.

    Treatment ranges from medication to surgical removal of the fibroid.

    Top Symptoms:
    vaginal bleeding, pelvis pain, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), painful periods, irregular period
    Primary care doctor

    Projectile Vomiting Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having projectile vomiting.

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  5. 5.Stomach Neoplasm

    Stomach neoplasm is a disease affecting that stomach that impairs it's ability to function properly.

    The treatment & prognosis for stomach neoplasm vary and are dependent on the disease severity.

    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, loss of appetite, constipation, diarrhea
    Primary care doctor
  6. 6.Mononucleosis Infection

    EBV Mononucleosis is a clinical syndrome characterized by fever, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes.

    2-3 weeks

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, headache, loss of appetite, abdominal pain (stomach ache), cough
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Intestinal Infection by Giardia Parasite

    Some intestinal illnesses are caused by parasitic infection. People can become infected if they swallow or swim in contaminated water or are exposed to infected feces.

    With proper treatment, symptoms will last no longer than 2 weeks.

    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, nausea, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, diarrhea
    Symptoms that never occur with intestinal infection by giardia parasite:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Food Poisoning

    Food poisoning is a common ailment that causes gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It is caused by improperly handled or unrefrigerated food.

    1-3 days

    Top Symptoms:
    nausea, abdominal pain (stomach ache), headache, abdominal cramps (stomach cramps), dizziness
    Symptoms that never occur with food poisoning:
    severe fever, being severely ill, bloody diarrhea

Projectile Vomiting Treatments and Relief

Vomiting is something we all have to deal with at some point in our lives, and it can often be managed at home. But certain associated symptoms or severe levels of vomiting require special attention that can only be provided by a physician.

At-home treatments:

  • Rest: Many acute disorders that cause vomiting, such as food poisoning, can get better with time.
  • Hydration: Drinking water is key when you are having vomiting if your vomiting is not severe and you are able to keep down fluids. It is recommended that you start slowly with sips of water or clear liquids before building up to your normal levels of intake. Electrolyte solutions such as Pedialyte or Gatorade can help you recover in the early stages after vomiting.
  • Food: You should avoid food during the early phases of a vomiting episode – you will just end up throwing it back up! But, as you start to feel better, feel free to try eating small amounts of easily digestible foods.

Professional treatments:

  • Imaging: Doctors may order x rays or CT scans or other tests to help diagnose the cause of your projectile vomiting.
  • Intravenous Fluids: If you are dehydrated or are unable to keep down liquids, you will be given fluids through an IV. You may also receive certain electrolytes like potassium if yours are out of balance.
  • Medication: In certain cases, you will be treated with a medication which can help stop vomiting.
  • " Stomach pumping": Placing a tube down the throat (nasogastric or NG tube) to remove the contents of the stomach is used for certain, less common causes of projectile vomiting.
  • Surgery: Rarely, certain conditions such as tumors require surgery for symptom management.

You should seek help without delay if you have:

  • Vomit that has streak of blood, looks like coffee grounds, or appears a bright green color
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Inability to keep down fluids for a prolonged period
  • Signs of an allergic reaction
  • High fever
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Known exposure to a toxic substance
  • Or if you are of old age or have another serious medical condition

FAQs About Projectile Vomiting

Here are some frequently asked questions about projectile vomiting.

Can acid reflux cause projectile vomiting in infants?

No, while isolated causes of projectile vomiting can occur and may happen in infants that have reflux, projectile vomiting is more closely associated with an obstruction of the bowels in young infants (three to six weeks of age) called pyloric stenosis. In older children, gastroenteritis and eosinophilic gastroenteritis (an allergic form of gastric inflammation) can cause projectile vomiting.

Why does my stomach hurt when I projectile vomit?

Projectile vomiting can be caused by intense and severe contractions of the stomach (abdominal) muscles and the muscles lining the esophagus. It is usually associated with either obstruction or severe gastroenteritis. If you are experiencing projectile vomiting with no known cause, or if there is blood present in the vomited material, seek medical attention immediately.

Does food poisoning cause projectile vomiting?

Yes, food poisoning can cause projectile vomiting in severe cases. In cases in which no food is able to be tolerated and severe inflammation of the stomach is present, projectile vomiting may occur. In most cases of food poisoning, the primary concern is adequate hydration and nutrition. If an individual is unable to tolerate any water for more than a day without vomiting, they may need intravenous fluid resuscitation. It is important to attempt to drink clear fluids as often as possible.

What's the difference between projectile vomiting and regular vomiting?

Projectile vomiting, like the name implies, is much more forceful such that the vomited material travels some distance (usually a few feet). Projectile vomit is usually the same consistency and material as non-projectile vomit. The primary difference is that is is emitted by much stronger contractions of the stomach (abdominal) muscles.

Why is my projectile vomit red?

Red projectile vomit can be caused by consumption of red foods including beets, red drinks, or even foods containing blood like rare meat or blood sausage. However, if it is due to your blood (and known as hematemesis) it is a urgent that you seek medical care for a possible bleed in the esophagus, stomach, or bowels. There is often no reliable way to determine origin of red coloring in vomit, so it is often safest to seek evaluation.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Projectile Vomiting

  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?
  • Q.Have you lost your appetite recently?
  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you experiencing a headache?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our projectile vomiting symptom checker to find out more.

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Projectile Vomiting Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced projectile vomiting have also experienced:

    • 9% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 9% Nausea
    • 5% Headache
  • People who have experienced projectile vomiting had symptoms persist for:

    • 66% Less Than a Day
    • 21% Less Than a Week
    • 5% Over a Month
  • People who have experienced projectile vomiting were most often matched with:

    • 27% Viral (Norovirus) Infection
    • 25% Viral (Rotavirus) Infection
    • 4% Influenza
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

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