Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain commonly occur together, and they can result from many illnesses. Some are relatively harmless, while others require prompt treatment.
Gastroenteritis is a very common intestinal infection. It typically occurs due to a virus, bacteria, or parasite. The symptoms can include:
Viral gastroenteritis is the second most common illness in the United States, and it often stems from consuming contaminated food or water.
Diverticulosis involves pouches forming in the wall of the colon. Diverticulitis is the medical name for infection and inflammation of these pouches.
Diverticulitis typically causes pain in the lower left part of the abdomen. Other symptoms may include:
The likelihood of developing diverticulosis increases with age. Researchers currently believe that the main cause is having a diet with low amounts of fiber.
Symptoms of celiac disease may include:
- stomach cramps
- weight loss
- joint pain
- bruising easily
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases estimate that 1 in 141 people in the U.S. have celiac disease, though many may be unaware of it.
- a cough
- shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- new loss of taste or smell
- congestion or a runny nose
- a sore throat
- a headache
- a fever
- muscle or body aches
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms may appear 2–14 days after exposure to the virus.
Side effects or adverse events are unwanted reactions to a medication.
Some common side effects include:
- an upset stomach
- dry mouth
Endometriosis involves cells similar to those of the uterine lining growing elsewhere in the body.
Symptoms of endometriosis may include:
A bowel obstruction involves the partial or full blockage of the small or large intestine. The blocked part swells with food, fluids, and gas, triggering symptoms such as:
- stomach cramping
- stomach pain
- an inability to pass gas
- abdominal swelling
- appetite loss
- severe constipation or diarrhea
Pancreatitis is the medical term for acute inflammation of the pancreas. The condition usually begins with a sudden onset of severe stomach pain that radiates to the back.
The pain usually worsens when the person:
- takes deep breaths
- moves around
Additional symptoms may include:
- a loss of appetite
- a fever
- jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes
Appendicitis is infection and inflammation of the appendix. The appendix is a small pouch of tissue that sits inside the colon. It is located in the lower right section of the abdomen.
The first symptom is typically pain in the middle of the stomach that radiates to the lower right side of the abdomen. The pain may worsen when a person walks, coughs, or sneezes.
Other symptoms of appendicitis may include:
- a fever
Iron poisoning occurs when too much iron builds up in the body. This may result from the person taking too many supplements that contain iron.
Symptoms of iron poisoning may include:
Anaphylaxis is the medical term for a severe allergic reaction. The trigger may be a medication or a food, for example.
Anaphylaxis happens quickly and can be fatal. Symptoms may include:
The complications to watch out for depend on the cause of the vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain.
For example, certain digestive conditions can cause intestinal malabsorption, which prevents the person from absorbing enough nutrients from food. This can lead to nutritional deficiencies and weight loss.
Untreated pancreatitis, appendicitis, and bowel obstructions can cause serious and potentially life-threatening complications, such as sepsis, an infection that spreads to the bloodstream and attacks other organs.
The right treatment for vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain depends on the cause of these symptoms.
Usually, a person recovers in a few days. In the meantime, it is important to get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids to prevent and treat dehydration.
If symptoms are severe or persistent, dietary changes, adjustments to current medications, or medical treatments may be necessary. These treatments may include:
- medications for intestinal infections
- pain relief medications
- intravenous, or IV, fluids
- hospitalization or surgery for serious illnesses, such as appendicitis or bowel obstructions
If anyone in the following groups experiences sudden, severe stomach pain, with or without vomiting and diarrhea, they need emergency care:
- pregnant women
- older adults
Anyone who experiences vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain, plus one or more of the following symptoms should receive professional care as soon as possible:
- vomiting that is severe or lasts longer than 12 hours
- bloody vomit
- diarrhea that lasts for more than 2 days
- stomach pain that awakens the person from sleep
- any symptoms that began after an injury or surgery to the stomach
- sudden swelling or bruising of the belly
- symptoms of dehydration, such as dizziness, dry mouth, and lethargy
- pain in the chest, arm, neck, or jaw
- difficulty breathing or swallowing
Vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain are a common combination of symptoms. They often result from gastroenteritis and tend to go away in a few days without the need for professional care.
However, see a doctor if symptoms are severe, persistent, or accompanied by other worrying symptoms. They can stem from more serious issues that require prompt treatment.
Most causes of vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain are treatable, as long as a doctor diagnoses and treats them in time.