The color of a person’s vomit can vary depending on its cause. While some may be cause for concern, most vomit colors do not indicate a need for medical attention.

People may experience nausea and vomiting due to food poisoning, irritation of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, or as a side effect of certain medications. If vomiting lasts only 1–2 days, it is typically not cause for concern.

However, if vomiting has a cyclic recurrence over weeks or months, this may be a sign of an underlying illness. Chronic conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), peptic ulcers, or reflux, may cause recurrent vomiting.

This article will review vomit colors, what they may mean, and when people should contact a doctor.

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Clear vomit is most often from swallowed saliva. This often occurs the first few times a person vomits with an empty stomach, as there is nothing else in the stomach other than the saliva they recently swallowed.

It may occur due to:

Vomit may appear white when a person has eaten white foods, such as:

People may also experience foamy white vomit. This can occur due to certain underlying conditions that involve the digestive system or because of excessive alcohol intake.

Green vomit may suggest that a person is vomiting bile, a substance that the liver produces to help break down fat during digestion. The green color means that the stomach has not yet digested the bile.

Green undigested bile typically comes from the upper duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). If a person vomits this substance, it may mean that there is an obstruction or other potential issue. It may be a good idea for them to contact a doctor to discuss this.

Yellow vomit can indicate that a person is vomiting bile that the stomach has already digested. This may not be a cause for concern and may simply suggest that the stomach is empty.

Learn more about bilious (yellow-green) vomit.

Orange is the color of partially digested foods. People may experience orange vomit for the first several hours of an illness while the stomach fully empties.

It may occur due to an illness, such as viral gastroenteritis (also known as stomach flu) or any other condition that may cause difficulties digesting food, including:

Pink or red vomit may indicate the presence of blood.

Throwing up blood (hematemesis) may suggest bleeding in the upper GI tract. This may occur due to conditions such as a peptic ulcer or esophagitis.

People who notice blood in their vomit should seek immediate medical attention.

Brown vomit may suggest the presence of blood in the vomit. It may have a link to conditions such as peptic ulcers and alcohol-related hepatitis. People should seek medical attention if their vomit looks similar to dark coffee grounds.

Black vomit may signify that the vomit contains blood. The black color is typically due to partial digestion and oxidation that blood may have sustained in the stomach.

If a person experiences black vomit, they should seek immediate medical attention.

Experiencing changes in vomit color and texture is typically not a cause for concern.

The texture of vomit may change while the stomach is emptying. Similarly, the color may change as people initially vomit the contents of their stomach, then the vomit may appear yellow or green because of bile.

However, if a person notices any unusual texture, such as vomiting a substance similar to coffee grounds, they should contact a doctor.

People may consider contacting a doctor if their symptoms do not ease within 1–2 days. A doctor can address the causes of these symptoms and recommend the most appropriate treatment.

They should also contact a doctor if they experience any of the following:

  • inability to keep fluids down due to vomiting
  • signs of severe dehydration
  • significant weight loss since the start of the illness
  • vomiting that has lasted for more than 48 hours and is not getting better
  • dizziness
  • headache

People should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following:

People should also immediately contact emergency services if they think they may have ingested something poisonous.

Vomiting has links with many health conditions, some concerning and others less so, especially if short-lived.

The color and texture of vomit and the frequency at which people throw up may indicate the presence of an underlying condition.

Black, red, and brown vomit may indicate a more serious health condition for which people should seek medical attention.

If vomiting lasts for more than 48 hours, a person should contact a doctor regardless of the color of their vomit.