Thursday, March 10, 2011

SmartAss Protips: Puking

Puking, vomiting, upchucking, worshiping the porcelain alter/goddess/god, driving the toilet bus, Technicolor yawn, horking, chunder, hurling, blowing chunks, ralphing, spewing, extreme anti-peristalsis, spewing, barfing, rainbow gagging, heaving, retching...

We have a lot of names for it, and none of them are nice – because vomiting is never pleasurable (outside of say, a fetishist, but that is not the topic of this post).

Here are some handy tips for those days when food just won’t stay down. This is not your standard nausea battle guide, this is stuff that has worked for me, and may work for you! I had two pregnancies that were full of fail when it came to keeping food down, and it has come up (?!?) again as a new med had me face down on a fairly frequent basis. It took two months to fix the situation: I was hesitant to call, because the pain medication was actually working, the first time I called they assumed the problem was on the other end of my digestive tract, when the medication they prescribed for that did not work I spread out my dosage more evenly through the day and eventually found dosages/times that worked for me (and still had me at or under my allotted amount per day).

Important note: I say this again later, but I want to be clear up here -- this is my own personal advice for handling a bout of puking. If you have any questions at all about why you are sick, you should talk to your medical professional, if possible. This is not meant to be a substitute for qualified medical advice!

Let's get too it!

Put your hair back – ponytail, clips, pins, whatever. My hair is long, so it is definitely a concern when I am throwing down with the porcelain.

Have a tidy bowl – if my stomach contents are already unsteady, one sure path to a speedy exit is a disgusting toilet. So, keep it tidy or ask your partner/caretaker/aid to lend a hand here.

Protect the pretties – if you wear [edit - spelling] long necklaces, consider taking them off until you feel better, or cheat like I do: tuck them into your shirt or bra straps.

Pearly whites – always brush or at least rinse afterwards. You don’t need old food or digestive juices hanging out on your teeth. Post-puke teeth are gross anyway, and you do not need that reminder hanging around while you try to hold something down.

Find your balm – some folks swear by ginger, starches, or mint. I am a shortbread girl myself. Experiment and find what works for you. Ice cream works occasionally for me. My boyfriend swears by drinking a Coke to settle his tummy. Motion sickness pills can help, too, by the way.

Be prepared – if you feel queasy, and unsure of your ability to make it to your bathroom, there is no shame in preparing ahead of time. Keep a basin, bucket, or wastebasket handy. Think about how you want to manage afterwards: are you up to cleaning it out, or would you rather double bag line it so you can tie them up and toss them?

Listen up – pay attention to what your body tells you. Do not wait until the last minute to do what you need to do. This, coupled with the above, can help prevent a lot of accidents.

Get it over with – I have found that when I am dealing with a bout of antiperistaltic movement, sometimes it is best to just get it over with, rather than fighting it tooth and nail. Your mileage may vary.

Talk it out – if you have a partner, roommate, caregiver, aid, let them know what is going on. Do you want someone to hold your hair back, or greet you with a bottle of water when you are done? Have a conversation, and do not be ashamed of things you have little or no control over, okay? Early in my relationship with my husband we both caught a stomach bug so terrible we were both prescribed anti-nausea suppositories -- as you can guess, we worked through the awkwardness then.

Watch what you eat – keep an eye out for how things may come back up when you are chowing down. I tend to stick to soft stuff: pudding, ice cream, apple sauce, flavored oatmeal. You may want to stay away from other foods: popcorn (eck! Don’t ask!), hard chips like potato or corn, spicy foods (if it stings going down, it is going to be a bad scene when it comes back), big leafy foods can be unpleasant, avoid anything that usually upsets your stomach or is uncomfortable (spicy foods at or beyond your tolerance point).

Along these lines, if you don’t already – chew your damn food! Seriously, you should do this whether you are puking or not. Take small bites, and chew thoroughly. Do you ever watch people eat? Even when there is no time constraint, many folks eat like they are in a huge hurry. But when you are nauseated, the idea that a bite could get wedged in your nose is likely to encourage you to develop this good habit.

Water, water -- stay hydrated. Seriously, no matter how frequently you are vomiting, you must stay hydrated. Dehydration is one of the big problems with vomiting as with diarrhea. 

Knowledge is power -- if you have a condition that can be worsened by vomiting (diabetes comes to mind), make sure you know if you should do anything special to keep disaster at bay.

Doctor, doctor – it is always okay to ask your doc for advice and help with this issue. I recommend it, especially if you think that it may be a sign of illness, or intolerance to a medication. Some areas have nurses you can consult by phone. Your medical professional may recommend anything from ginger to an anti-nausea ‘script. Work with them to come up with a solution you can manage.

Have any tips? Feel free to share in the comments! Have a question? Go ahead and ask! Got an opinion? Check out the comment policy, and fire away!


  1. Speaking as a caregiver whose mother was on chemo and whose ex-wife had gallbladder disease, I've had a lot experience in having a ready cold washrag and glass of water or Gatorade ready after the fact. In the case of the Gatorade, I recommend watering it down to half-strength. It seems to be less of a shock to an upset digestive system that way.

  2. re: foods and hydration. My mom, the doctor, always gave us Popsicles when we were 'sick'. She has told patients with children they should be allowed to have as many frozen juice treats as they want. The cold can help settle tummies and the water is good for the system. Make your own from fresh juice and it's also a great way to introduce vitamins to your overtaxed system without adding 'bad sugar'.

  3. @Vargr - You are pretty good at being helpful without being in my face. Which is very cool in my book. And half strength Gatorade is a good tip!

    @dillochan - I had forgotten about frozen pops! I usually like ice cream for a lot of the same reasons, but that may be too heavy for some delicate stomachs. Hope you are enjoying your trip!


I will get to your comment as soon as possible! Moderation is to guard against some of the vile things that happen on this series of tubes...