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Vomiting After Head Injury: What It Means and How to Treat It

woman sitting on couch closing eyes experiencing nausea and vomiting after head injury

Is vomiting after head injury a dangerous sign?

While dizziness and nausea are normal side effects of head injury, vomiting can be a sign of a worsening condition. However, a single episode of vomiting is not usually a cause for alarm.

Today you will learn what causes vomiting after head injury and what it means for recovery. Plus, we’ll show you some helpful home remedies that can treat persistent nausea and vomiting.

Causes of Vomiting After Head Injury

There are several possible causes of vomiting after head injury. These include:

  • Vestibular dysfunction. An injury to the cerebellum or inner ear can cause balance and dizziness problems, which can trigger vomiting in some people.
  • Migraines. Some head injuries cause severe headaches or migraines, which again can trigger vomiting.
  • Skull fracture. A skull fracture will also cause extreme pain which can lead to vomiting.
  • Hematoma. A hematoma is a dangerous collection of blood on the surface of the brain. One of the signs of a hematoma is repeated vomiting.

Although vomiting can be a sign of a hematoma, a hematoma is usually accompanied by more than one symptom. Some other signs of a hematoma include:

  • Steadily worsening headache
  • One dilated pupil
  • Weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Slurred speech
  • Seizures

Therefore, if a person vomits after a head injury but does not display these other symptoms, they most likely do not have a hematoma. However, it is still a good idea to have them checked by a doctor.

What Does Vomiting After Head Injury Mean?

woman sitting by window, closing eyes and looking sick because she is experiencing nausea and vomiting after head injury

Some studies have found that vomiting after a concussion is frequently associated with a skull fracture.

In fact, in a comprehensive study that examined over 5000 head injury patients, post-traumatic vomiting increased the risk of skull fracture by four-fold.

However, other studies have also shown that a single, isolated incidence of vomiting after a head injury does not increase the risk of an intracranial injury.

In other words, vomiting on its own is not an indicator of serious injury, but rather if it is combined with other symptoms.

How Long Does Vomiting Last?

Vomiting can occur several days or weeks after a head injury, depending on how severe the concussion was. However, it should decrease in frequency as time passes.

If it does not decrease, call your doctor immediately.

Violent, persistent vomiting that occurs directly after a head injury is a more serious sign than one or two vomiting incidents separated by several hours.

If the person cannot stop vomiting and cannot keep any food or liquids down, get them to the hospital immediately.

Treating Vomiting After Head Injury

Once your doctor has ruled out any serious conditions causing your nausea, there are some home remedies for nausea that you can try. These can help you reduce vomiting.

1. Deep Breaths

man sitting on bench in park taking deep breaths to relieve vomiting after head injury

Research has shown that taking deep, controlled breaths activates the parasympathetic nervous system. This reduces the biological response that triggers vomiting and nausea.

Deep breathing can also calm anxiety, which in turn can reduce nausea.

To practice deep breathing, simply close your eyes, and slowly inhale through your nose. Let the air completely fill your lungs, then hold for three seconds.

Finally, exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times until you feel the nausea subside.

2. Acupressure

Many people find that acupressure helps reduce nausea and vomiting. Acupressure is based on the traditional Chinese medicine practice of acupuncture, which uses specific pressure points on the body to alleviate symptoms.

One effective pressure point for vomiting is located on your inner wrist. To find the pressure point, follow these steps:

  • Hold your hand so that your fingers are pointing up and your palm is facing your face.
  • Place your first three fingers of your opposite hand across your wrist.
  • Place your thumb just below these three fingers. You should be able to feel two tendons beneath your thumb. That is the pressure point.
  • Press your thumb on this point and move it in a circle for two minutes. Pressure should be firm but not so hard that it hurts.

For a visual demonstration of using acupressure points, check out this video:

Another pressure point that can help relieve nausea is the ear lobes. Rub both ear lobes in a circular direction for two minutes or until the nausea subsides. This point also may reduce anxiety.

3. Fluids and Ginger Root

It’s crucial to stay hydrated, especially if you’re vomiting frequently. Make sure you sip fluids slowly so as not to upset your stomach.

Some drinks that can keep you hydrated and calm your stomach include:

  • Mint tea
  • Lemonade
  • Ginger ale or ginger tea
  • Water

In addition to fluids, chewing on ginger root is an effective way to reduce nausea.

4. Aromatherapy

essential oils for treating vomiting after head injury

Aromatherapy can also reduce nausea and vomiting after head injury.

To practice aromatherapy, try breathing an open essential oil bottle. You can also add the oil to a diffuser.

One of the most effective essential oils to use for nausea is lavender since it offers many other benefits to brain injury patients. Other oils you can use include:

  • Lemon oil
  • Frankincense
  • Clove
  • Chamomile
  • Peppermint
  • Rose

5. Medications

Finally, there are medications that may reduce nausea and vomiting.

Some common over-the-counter drugs that can help include Pepto-Bismol and Dramamine.

If you need something stronger, there are also prescription anti-nausea medications your doctor may prescribe.

Vomiting After Head Injury: Key Points

Vomiting is a fairly common side effect of head injury. While isolated incidents of vomiting do not usually signal something serious, vomiting can be associated with skull fractures and hematomas.

Therefore, the best course of action if someone is vomiting after a head injury is to have them seen by a physician. Doctors may perform various scans to determine if a serious injury has occurred.

Even if no serious brain damage is found, you can still experience nausea and vomiting for several days after a head injury. The home remedies in this article may decrease your symptoms and speed up your recovery.

Featured Image: ©iStock/fizkes

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