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How do I keep from getting dehydrated when I'm constantly vomiting and diarrhea-ing?
November 5, 2008 5:04 PM   Subscribe

I've had diarrhea and constant vomiting since last night. I can't even keep down water. What should I do to keep from getting dehydrated?

It could be food poisoning. Yesterday's menu: my usual tofu wrap (lettuce, hummus, tofu on lavash bread) and Chinese food (pork, noodles, veggies) from a place I had never tried before. I don't feel ill otherwise--no fever, aches, pains. What should I try to eat or drink that will regulate my system and keep me from getting dehydrated? I ate some yogurt for lunch and mixed in a small amount of blueberry preserves and cereal, but I just vomited and, well, there it was. Every glass of water I've had has come back up, too.
My health insurance hasn't kicked in yet.

(My pants are noticeably looser, which is keeping my spirits up!)
posted by HotPatatta to Health & Fitness (41 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
If it's really been 24 hours and you really can't keep a glass of water down go to an ER. Insurance be damned.
posted by Science! at 5:12 PM on November 5, 2008


Insurance or not, you need to go to ER or a clinic and get an injection to quell the nausea. They will probably also want to give you a drip. If you can't even keep water down, you can't stay hydrated.

Call your local "ask-a-nurse" type service at the hospital at the very least.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 5:12 PM on November 5, 2008


Go to the ER

If you can't keep water down, you need IV fluids.

I had similar symptoms a few months ago. It turned out to be a punctured intestine. There's a lot of things that can cause those symptoms, lots of them can kill you, and they won't get better on their own.
posted by Diz at 5:15 PM on November 5, 2008


Besides the ER, try drinking Gatorade or Pedialyte.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:17 PM on November 5, 2008


Oh, and try the one-ounce-every-5-minutes trick to keeping it down. You won't overload your stomach.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:18 PM on November 5, 2008


You can try Emetrol, which I have found to be a life saver with a cases of food poisoning. You can get it at Duane Reade.
posted by kimdog at 5:18 PM on November 5, 2008


Suck ice chips.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:20 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Water or Gatorade, in very, very small sips. So small, they almost don't count. Very far apart.

I've been in this position before, where my body got into almost a cycle, and the only way I could keep anything down was to use this method to remind my body that fluids were good.

If you can keep that down, shortly thereafter, I suggest trying to eat some green grapes. Again, VERY slowly and measured.

If that does not work, hie thee to the ER immediately. Get some fluids and make sure there's not a more serious infection or problem that's gotten you this ill.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:25 PM on November 5, 2008


Gatorade or pedialite.
posted by stubby phillips at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2008


Keep drinking, in small amounts, as you will absorb more liquid than you throw back up. Get some rehydration mix from the chemist, or make your own.
posted by hot soup girl at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


or what cpb said.

dammit
posted by stubby phillips at 5:28 PM on November 5, 2008


Gatorade or Pedialyte, as mentioned above, very small quantities. No food, NOTHING! Try about 10 ml at a time, every 10-15 min.. If you because dizzy, light headed or this doesn't resolve, it's time for Urgent Care or the E.R..

IMNAD. YMMV.
posted by 6:1 at 5:37 PM on November 5, 2008


Can someone fetch something for you? I had food poisoning last month where the vomiting lasted 14 hours (god, it's awful). Of course, I wasn't bringing anything up but just retching - your body can sometimes get in this cycle where you can't stop it on your own.

I resorted to using an anti-nausea suppository, simply because I couldn't keep any water down to take an anti-nausea tablet orally. It knocked me out (plus I was exhausted) and when I woke up 3 hours later, I felt enormously better and could get some broth in me. Not a pleasant experience, but could really help your situation.
posted by meerkatty at 5:38 PM on November 5, 2008


(That is, if your diarrhea has subsided.)
posted by meerkatty at 5:39 PM on November 5, 2008


can't keep down water = IV now. Go.

can keep down water = drink pedialyte or water.
posted by zippy at 5:40 PM on November 5, 2008


Going to the ER would be the best advice, if that's not going to happen try sitting in the tub, your body can absorb some water that way to help prevent further dehydration and it also can relax the muscles a bit which might help as well, at least it helped me when I was badly dehydrated.
posted by mr.grum at 5:47 PM on November 5, 2008


Try some Miso broth, a spoonful every 1/2 hour or so. Something warm and a bit salty might make your stomach stop twitching.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 5:56 PM on November 5, 2008


Had a roommate once who was severely opposed to medical technology (for what later turned out to be mental-illness-related reasons). He was also just about the most determined/stubborn person I've ever met. Intestinal virus put him in the situation you're in now. A day was all he could take, and he caved. Seldom have I seen anyone more blissed-out than he got on that intravenous saline-and-sugar drip.

If you absolutely insist on waiting for the insurance to kick in—which is when, exactly?—all I can say is hold water and electrolytes up against some mucous membrane somewhere (mouth, rectum) and hope they make it through. But you've Asked Metafilter, and Metafilter's been pretty unanimous about the ER/IV thing, so with friends like us, who needs enemas?
posted by eritain at 6:05 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


You can make your own oral rehydration solution: one teaspoon of salt, eight teaspoons of sugar, and one litre of boiled, cooled water. We also add unsweetened OJ to it for taste. The whole family had gastro last week so it's fresh in my mind. Even if you puke it up it tastes a hell of a lot better than bile does. If it keeps up I'd take the advice above to get medical help.

Don't bother trying to eat anything.
posted by Cuke at 6:05 PM on November 5, 2008


Going to the ER would be the best advice, if that's not going to happen try sitting in the tub, your body can absorb some water that way to help prevent further dehydration and it also can relax the muscles a bit which might help as well, at least it helped me when I was badly dehydrated.

Ahhh, frighteningly incorrect medical advice on an Ask Mefi question. How I've missed thee.

Your body cannot absorb any minimally significant quantity of water through your skin. Your skin acts as a barrier to fluid changes.

Diarrhea and vomiting can be food poisoning, or it can be a sign of other things. You may want to consider seeking the attention of a medical doctor.

(I am not your doctor, you are not my patient; this is not medical advice, simply medical education.)
posted by gramcracker at 6:07 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


miso is probably too salty--mix one part sports drink with three parts water and drink sips of that. take immodium to help stop the diarrhea.

if you are totally starving, avoid dairy and stick with something very starchy and mild, like plain white rice, pasta, oatmeal, or bread. it'll get your blood sugar back up with a minimum of digestion energy. (protein takes more energy to digest.) also, avoid anything fibrous like fruit or whole grains.

if you are still ill tomorrow morning, go to the emergency room. dehydration is a bitch.
posted by thinkingwoman at 6:07 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


But you've Asked Metafilter, and Metafilter's been pretty unanimous about the ER/IV thing, so with friends like us, who needs enemas?

I really, really, really don't think that a lot of people saying something on Ask Metafilter should be taken as any sign that the advice is medically accurate.
posted by gramcracker at 6:10 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


To a mum of two toddlers under the age of three who attend daycare, this sounds like a classic stomach bug. It can be extremely unpleasant on adults and utterly drain you, but fortunately lasts only about 48 hours. Imodium is a life-saver, it should stop the diarrhoea, and you can get it over the counter even at the supermarket. Don't consume any dairy, that'll make you throw up more. Drink gatorade and pedialite as much as you can bear, even in tiny quantities, to replenish your electrolytes.

Call your doctor/nurse if you're feeling too weak or if it hasn't subsided after two days.
posted by Dragonness at 6:37 PM on November 5, 2008


Oh, and if it is gastroenteritis, it's really no big deal. Look at it as a nice quick way to drop a few pounds.
posted by Dragonness at 6:39 PM on November 5, 2008


GO. TO. A. DOCTOR.

You are probably dehydrated by now, and the fastest way to rehydrate is IV fluids.
posted by TheyCallItPeace at 6:56 PM on November 5, 2008


diarrhea and constant vomiting

Do you still have constant diarrea? If so, you could dehydrate so quickly that you'd go into shock and die within a day (such as with cholera) -- go to ER immediately!!

Otherwise, if the diarrhea has subsided, then you should be able to gradually rehydrate with small sips of Pedialyte or other Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) mixtures even if you tend to vomit. ORT takes advantage of the fact that at certain precise concentrations of dissolved salt and sugar, the membranes of your alimentary canal readily and rapidly transfer water into your bloodstream WITHOUT EXPENDING ANY ENERGY.

Make sure you follow the instructions correctly, i.e. mix correct quantities and do NOT boil after mixing (hydrolizes the sugar). Do NOT mix anything else into it.

Forget Gatorade, diluted OJ, etc. They are meant for other purposes.
posted by randomstriker at 7:06 PM on November 5, 2008


Dehydration is no joke. You can feel alright but your body can be in some serious jeopardy if it's losing water. Forget about insurance - get thee to the E.R.
posted by zardoz at 7:10 PM on November 5, 2008


After you've gotten the medical care that it sounds like you need, if you're still queasy but are finally able to keep liquids down, you might make yourself some ginger tea. I make it by slicing ginger root and simmering it for several minutes, then adding some honey. It settles my stomach.
posted by PatoPata at 7:32 PM on November 5, 2008


Do you still have constant diarrea? If so, you could dehydrate so quickly that you'd go into shock and die within a day (such as with cholera) -- go to ER immediately!!

Cholera is no joke, and can kill a previously healthy person alarmingly quickly.

But it's a whole other level of illness than the garden variety of diarrhea -- if you are able to walk to the bathroom and use the internet (rather than laying in bed and crapping copiously in your pants while delirious with fever) you are not that sick, and are not going to die in the next half hour. Fear mongering like this, even if well-intentioned, isn't particularly helpful, I think.

Honestly, I think the "Go to the ER NOW!" advice is a little premature. Small sips of mild, slightly sweet drink will help -- flat Sprite or 7-Up, Gatorade mixed with water, etc. If you are well into the second day, and you are still unable to keep even those small sips down and are still draining out your other end, then yes, you should seek medical attention.

But a solid day or day and a half of the stomach flu is (unfortunately) pretty normal, and counts as one of those occasional miseries of life.

Much better than random internet advice, though, would be having a friend come over to check on you -- your assessment of your condition may not be accurate, and having someone look in on you is a really good idea.
posted by Forktine at 7:35 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


24 hours is the limit. If you cant keep water down then you might die. You need to go to urgent care first thing in the morning and get an IV or get to the emergency room tonight. If you live alone then you should make sure someone checks up on you in the morning.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:45 PM on November 5, 2008


nthing what everyone says. This happened to me last Christmas. I was terribly dehydrated. They had to give me 2 IVs.

Hospital bills can be worked out, but only if you survive.

Get thee to an emergency room.
posted by arniec at 7:55 PM on November 5, 2008


Go to the ER.
posted by jeffamaphone at 9:45 PM on November 5, 2008


Don't bother trying to eat any more food, you can survive for days without food anyway. Do the small sips of water or pedialyte and see how that goes. I had something very similar to what you are describing last year, when I was pregnant. It calmed down after 1.5 days, and I was able to slowly start eating again (plain toast and later some banana). My OB didn't send me to the ER, she just prescribed some anti-nausea suppositories, which I managed to do without in the end. So if a pregnant woman can manage without rushing to the ER, I think you are safe for another half a day, unless you feel so bad you WANT to go to the ER! Definitely agree with the idea of asking a friend to check in on you in the morning.
posted by Joh at 10:19 PM on November 5, 2008


Take a bath, your skin absorbs water very readily, so much so that filling a bathtub with vodka and holding them down in it is a fantastic way to give them alcohol posioning.
posted by zentrification at 11:05 PM on November 5, 2008


Take a bath, your skin absorbs water very readily, so much so that filling a bathtub with vodka and holding them down in it is a fantastic way to give them alcohol posioning.

Alcohol is not water and is absorbed differently. If water were absorbed through the skin to the extent you're implying, we would swell up like sponges in the bathtub.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:15 PM on November 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Cholera is no joke, and can kill a previously healthy person alarmingly quickly. But it's a whole other level of illness than the garden variety of diarrhea -- if you are able to walk to the bathroom and use the internet (rather than laying in bed and crapping copiously in your pants while delirious with fever) you are not that sick, and are not going to die in the next half hour"

Vibrio cholerae doesn't cause fever (ok 5% of cases). I would say this is pretty bad advice. Using the presence/absence of fever and frequency of bowel movements is a poor way of assessing one's hydration status.
posted by sero_venientibus_ossa at 3:06 AM on November 6, 2008


I recomend Gatorade for the rehydration. My doctor (and a blood specialist) told me its the best way for rehydration.

Heck even a medical rumours show showed that gatorade does really well at rehydration.

Anyway Like everybody else stated i would say go with the pedialyte or gatorade in small doses.

If it does not get better then go to the ER.
posted by majortom1981 at 5:41 AM on November 6, 2008


I had the stomach flu earlier this year. I was over 6% dehydrated when I finally went to the hospital. I had started losing feeling in my fingers and toes, I hadn't urinated in hours, my eyes hurt. I almost fell unconscious when the nurse drew blood. The doctor told me he was going to give me two bags of IV and the first one should take about half an hour. It was gone in 16 minutes.

It also cost me $1200 out of pocket, that's after insurance.
posted by phritosan at 7:26 AM on November 6, 2008


I had this last week and it sucked.

STOP TRYING TO EAT. Seriously. Why bother? I didn't eat any food for two days last week because I couldn't keep it down. I wasn't hungry anyway. At this point, you need liquids much more than food.

Teeny, tiny sips of water. Avoid anything with sugar because it can make the diarrhea worse, but diet sprite or ginger ale might help, as well as Gatorade or Pedialyte. If you cannot keep down even water 24 hours after you first start throwing up, you need to go to the emergency room and get an IV. Even if you have no insurance.
posted by purplecurlygirl at 7:47 AM on November 6, 2008


I woke up this morning and felt completely fine. The vomiting has ceased, the diarrhea has lessened. Now I'm in rehydration mode with Gatorade, Smart Water, and chicken broth.

Thanks everyone.
posted by HotPatatta at 3:22 PM on November 6, 2008


HotPatatta, glad to hear it. It's crazy how you can go from feeling like you're about to die, to feeling totally fine again. But it does sound like you had stomach flu.
posted by Dragonness at 5:09 PM on November 6, 2008


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