Sucking on ice, eating a small amount of food, and resting with the head propped up are some ways to relieve dry heaving.

Dry heaving is retching or going through the motions and sensation of vomiting without producing any vomit.

Dry heaves are extremely common and often occur after periods of vomiting. They can also occur alone as a symptom or side effect of an underlying medical condition or due to certain situations and medications.

Health experts consider dry heaving the first stage of vomiting, though it does not always lead to vomiting.

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Although it can be unpleasant, most cases of dry heaving only last for a short time and resolve with basic care.

Common home remedies for mild to moderate cases of dry heaving include:

  • Hydration: Taking very small and slow sips of plain water can help a person rehydrate. It is often easier to start with ice chips or popsicles.
  • Electrolytes: When the vomiting slows, a person needs to drink beverages rich in crucial hydration salts called electrolytes. These drinks include many sports drinks and soup broths. A person can also buy oral rehydration salts and prepare them at home. It is best to always start with small sips and increase the amount as they can tolerate.
  • Relax and rest: If possible, a person can lie down with their head elevated and breathe deeply. Relaxing breaths can help minimize the symptoms of dry heaving.
  • Food: Once the vomiting has stopped, a person can resume eating bland foods. Some find that plain foods such as porridge, toast, applesauce, broth, and bananas are easier to digest and reduce nausea. The key is to keep portions small.
  • Ginger: Ginger supplements, chews, gums, and drinks are common ways to reduce nausea. A person can also make ginger tea by grating fresh ginger root and mixing it in hot water with honey for taste.
  • Plain carbohydrates: Saltines, dry toast, plain rice, and oatmeal are often relatively easy to digest.
  • Antiemetics: Over-the-counter (OTC) anti-nausea medications, called antiemetics, block the neurotransmitters that trigger nausea, dry heaving, and vomiting. It is best to follow the package instructions for use.
  • Antacids: OTC antacids contain compounds, such as calcium carbonate, magnesium, and baking soda, that help neutralize stomach acids.

For cases due to excessive alcohol consumption, a person immediately needs to stop drinking alcohol and switch to clear fluids.

However, moderate to severe cases of nausea and dry heaving can cause serious dehydration and potentially damage the tissues and organs.

The most common medical treatment options for severe dry heaving are intravenous fluid (IV) fluids and anti-nausea medications.

If dry heaving relates to a specific condition, the underlying cause also requires specific treatment.

Morning sickness is common in pregnancies, occurring in around 80% of pregnant people. It can cause dry heaving, nausea, and vomiting and can range from mild to severe.

Dry heaving during pregnancy is generally not a cause for concern, and morning sickness usually resolves within 12 to 16 weeks of pregnancy.

However, to ease dry heaving and morning sickness, people can try:

  • having frequent, small meals or a snack every 1 to 2 hours
  • drinking around 8 cups of cold fluids daily
  • adding a protein source to each meal
  • eating bland and gentle foods, such as bananas, rice, or toast

For more severe cases, a doctor may also prescribe anti-nausea medications and vitamins. These can include:

Dry heaving generally prepares the body for vomiting by helping reverse the movement of contents in the stomach and food pipe, known as the esophagus.

Dry heaving may also occur when the brain continues to send the signal to clear the stomach even though it is already empty.

Dry heaving involves the contraction of the abdominal walls and diaphragm, which allows the lungs to expand while the stomach and esophagus relax. This forces the contents of the stomach and esophagus upward.

When there is nothing left in the stomach to throw up, the body may continue to undergo the physical motions of vomiting. However, it cannot expel anything except occasional mucous or clear fluid. This is dry heaving.

In some cases, dry heaving can also trigger when there is no actual reason to empty the stomach, such as in response to a smell or a sight.

Dry heaving often occurs due to a combination of factors. Vomiting and nausea often accompany dry heaving, so they share many of the same risk factors.

However, there are medical conditions, medications, and certain situations that can specifically increase the risk of dry heaving.

Common situations relating to dry heaving include:

Other conditions known to cause dry heaving include the below.

Gastrointestinal conditions

Conditions that interfere with digestion, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis, Crohn’s disease, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), are common causes of nausea and dry heaving.

Dry heaving may be especially common during flare-ups when symptoms are more severe.

Acid reflux

Indigestion can cause stomach acids to travel back up the food pipe, which may be uncomfortable or painful. This sensation can also cause nausea.


Regardless of the location in the body, severe infection may cause the immune system to initiate nausea and vomiting in response to the problem.

The physical presence of parasites tends to cause the intestines and stomach to feel either very full or very empty, triggering unnecessary retching.

Food allergies or poisoning

Food allergens or toxins can cause intense, sudden vomiting and complete emptying of the stomach contents and bowels.

This severe response often continues for some time after the allergen has been cleared from the stomach, resulting in dry heaving.

Liver, kidney, or pancreas disorders

Nausea and a loss of appetite are some of the most common early warning signs of chronic liver, kidney, and pancreas disorders.

Migraine headaches

Migraine headaches are a well-known cause of nausea, vomiting, and dry heaving. This is often in response to severe pain, disorientation, and light sensitivity.

Cyclic vomiting syndrome

Cycling vomiting syndrome (CVS) causes seemingly random, sudden spells of intense vomiting, nausea, and physical exhaustion that occur every few weeks to months.

A person with CVS may also experience migraine and motion sickness. Doctors only diagnose around 3 out of 100,000 children with CVS yearly, but health experts do not know how common this condition is in adults.


Some medications can cause dry heaving. These may include:

Inner ear conditions

Infection, inflammation, or pain in the inner ear can cause vertigo, motion sickness, and nausea.

Severe pain or shock

The body may respond to severe pain or shock by causing nausea and often dry heaving.

Intracranial conditions

Any injury or brain condition, such as trauma, bleeding, a tumor, or viral infection, can increase pressure in the brain and cause nausea and dry heaving.

If dry heaving continues for more than 2 days or is severe, a person needs to seek medical attention.

Moderate to severe cases of dry heaving can cause dehydration, which may require medical care and monitoring to prevent complications, including kidney injury.

Reasons to seek immediate medical attention for dry heaving include:

Hydration, taking electrolytes, eating a small amount of bland food, and relaxing and resting can help stop dry heaving.

While rare, persistent nausea and dry heaving may indicate more serious health conditions, such as an organ disease or infection.

Anyone who frequently experiences dry heaving with no apparent cause needs to consult a doctor.