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Common Causes of Simultaneous Diarrhea with Vomiting

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 18, 2022

Common Causes of Simultaneous Diarrhea with Vomiting

Diarrhea and vomiting are common symptoms when there’s something wrong with our digestive system. Most of the time, we experience one or the other, but there are also instances when they happen together. What causes simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea?

Viral Gastroenteritis

Viral gastroenteritis is one cause of diarrhea with vomiting. This condition results in the inflammation, irritation, and swelling of the inner lining of the GI tract.

The most common viruses that cause this infection are:

  • Rotavirus
  • Norovirus or Norwalk virus
  • Adenovirus
  • Astrovirus

Norovirus infection is the usual culprit for cases of viral gastroenteritis in recent reported outbreaks, in cruise ships, for instance. Meanwhile, Rotavirus, Adenovirus, and Astrovirus can affect people of all ages, but they more commonly affect infant kids.

You can get viral gastroenteritis when you:

  • Have close contact with someone infected by any of the viruses mentioned above.
  • Touched surfaces or objects that an infected person previously held.
  • Ate foods that are prepared by someone infected with the viruses.
  • For these reasons, properly washing your hands is very important. Moreover, it’s also crucial to disinfect surfaces and objects you frequently touch or use.

    Other Signs and Symptoms

    Aside from diarrhea with vomiting, people with viral gastroenteritis also experience the following signs and symptoms:

    • Nausea (feeling sick)
    • Abdominal pain or cramping
    • Fever
    • Aching arms and legs
    • Headache
    • Loss of appetite (due to nausea and vomiting)

    To treat gastroenteritis, you need to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. When you go to the hospital, the doctor may prescribe anti-vomiting or anti-diarrheal drugs.

    diarrhea with vomiting

    Food Poisoning

    Another common condition that causes simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea is food poisoning. Food poisoning happens when you consume foods that are contaminated by bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.

    Please note that food poisoning can happen anywhere – at home or in a restaurant. The risk increases when the foods are not properly handled, stored, or cooked. The good news is most cases resolve within a few hours to a few days even without treatment.

    Other Signs and Symptoms

    The other signs and symptoms of food poisoning aside from diarrhea with vomiting are:

    • Nausea or “feeling sick”
    • Abdominal pain and cramps
    • Fever

    Furthermore, there are times when diarrhea associated with food poisoning is bloody.

    Persistent food poisoning can lead to dehydration, so it’s best to seek medical attention for severe cases.

    Traveler’s Diarrhea

    Like food poisoning and gastroenteritis, you may experience traveler’s diarrhea when you consume contaminated foods.

    However, unlike the first two conditions we discussed, traveler’s diarrhea usually happens after you have arrived in a foreign or new destination.

    The other factors that can cause traveler’s diarrhea are:

    • The stress of traveling
    • A change in diet since you are in a new place
    • Eating foods that underwent sanitary practices that are different from what you’re used to.

    Other Signs and Symptoms

    More than diarrhea with vomiting, a person with traveler’s diarrhea may also suffer from:

    • Nausea or feeling sick
    • Abdominal cramping
    • Fever

    Another thing worth noting about traveler’s diarrhea is that it’s sudden. Normally, the patient will feel an abrupt onset of loose, watery stool. It’s also possible for the stool to be bloody.

    Doctors say that the symptoms typically go away on their own within a few days. But they could be longer depending on the organism that caused it. In those cases, patients may need to seek medical help and the doctor will probably prescribe medications to ease the symptoms.

    Other Reasons Why Diarrhea with Vomiting Happens

    Besides the conditions explained above, the following can also cause simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea:

    • Consuming irritating foods. Often, the irritating foods are those that are greasy and have a lot of added sugars.
    • Overeating and overdrinking. At times, eating too much and excessive consumption of alcohol can cause diarrhea with vomiting.
    • Stress and anxiety. This might be due to the effect of the stress hormones in the gut. Research shows that stress hormones may slow down the motility in the stomach and small intestine, but they could trigger an increase of movement in the large intestine.
    • Pregnancy. Dietary changes and food sensitivities due to pregnancy may cause diarrhea with vomiting. Furthermore, there’s morning sickness which can actually happen at any time of the day.
    • Medications. And finally, some medications, especially antibiotics, can cause vomiting and diarrhea as potential side-effects.

    When to Seek Medical Help

    While most conditions that cause simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea are not serious enough to require hospitalization, you need to seek medical help if you or someone you care for:

    • Cannot keep foods and drinks down for 24 hours
    • Cannot take maintenance medications
    • Develop a fever of 38.3 C or higher
    • Have insulin-dependent diabetes and experience simultaneous vomiting and diarrhea
    • Have diarrhea for more than 3 days or see no improvement for over 5 days
    • Experience unrelated abdominal pain; this means that the cramping or pain doesn’t get better after vomiting or passing of stool.
    • Took antibiotics recently
    • Have bloody diarrhea
    • Develop signs of dehydration

    The Signs of Dehydration You Should Watch Out For

    • Decreased urine output or dark urine
    • Thirst; for babies, you’ll notice that they’ll cry harder, are irritated, and would be eager to drink when you offer them something.
    • Dry tongue or inside of the mouth.
    • Dry eyes or the absence of tears
    • Sleepiness, or weakness
    • Lightheadedness
    • Skin that’s not as “elastic” or “springy” as before

    Key Takeaways

    Remember that when you’re experiencing diarrhea with vomiting, the priority intervention is to replace the lost fluids. The best choices to drink are clear liquids such as water and broth.

    Try not to resort to sugary drinks or sports drinks as they can worsen your symptoms. Consider purchasing over-the-counter ORS or oral rehydration solutions. Finally, if drinking makes you feel queasy, you can suck on ice chips for relief.

    Always remember to seek medical attention if diarrhea with vomiting persists for more than 24 hours or if there are signs of dehydration.

    Learn more about Digestive Health here. 


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Dec 18, 2022

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