Reasons to Induce Vomiting
There is some controversial information on major medical websites about when is appropriate to induce vomiting and when not.
DO NOT induce vomiting unless a doctor or a personnel from a Poison Control Center on the phone tell you to do so.
Before inducing vomiting, please check the text below the grey box to know when you should not try to vomit because it can be dangerous.
Induce vomiting only when the personnel from Poison Control Center instruct you to do so.
How to make yourself throw up?
In case of poisoning, call emergency (911 in the US) or Poison Control Center (1-800-222-1222 in the US) and follow the instructions. Inducing vomiting is optimal when done immediately after ingesting a harmful substance and may make sense within an hour of ingestion.
1. Sit or Kneel
Sit in front of a bowl or kneel in front of the toilet bowl in a firm position to avoid falling.
2. Use Fingers
Stick your tongue out, put your index and middle finger on the back of the tongue, pull the tongue and fingers back until the fingers touch the little tongue that hangs down from the back of your palate (lingula) or the back throat wall. You may need to stick your fingers in the throat for several seconds and use your will power to induce vomit. As soon as you feel stomach cramps, remove the fingers from the mouth and allow the stomach content to come out.
If you have no gag reflex, sticking fingers down the throat will not make you puke.
NOTE: DO NOT use any hard objects–sticks, spoons or toothbrushes–to induce vomiting to avoid injuring your throat and teeth.
After vomiting rinse your mouth with water and possibly drink a small amount of it to remove bad taste. Do not brush your teeth right after vomiting because brushing teeth that are covered by stomach acid may potentially damage the tooth enamel.
When NOT to Induce Vomiting
1. NEVER induce vomiting in a person with impaired consciousness, seizures or in a severely drunk person because of danger of choking or aspiration. If a person is lying, he or she should not lie on the back but on the side during inducing vomiting.
2. DO NOT induce vomiting after ingesting:
- Corrosive liquids (acids, alkalies, bleach)
- Petroleum products (gasoline, kerosene, coal oil, lighter fluid, paint thinner or other solvents, liquid pesticide concentrates), benzene, toluene or other highly volatile liquids or products that can froth (shampoo, dishwashing soap and other cleaning fluids)
- Strychnine (14)
- Iron tablets (3)
- Any chemical, unless a doctor tell you to do so. Some doctors may recommend inducing vomiting after ingesting poisonous mushrooms or other plants, methanol, ethylene glycol (antifreeze), diluted liquid pesticides, mercury or, sometimes, after a drug overdose (analgesics, antibiotics, antidepressants, antihistamines, opiates) or allergic reaction to food (10).
- Hard or sharp objects, such as toys, buttons, coins, rings, batteries, etc.
- Other references: (1,2)
In above cases, inducing vomiting can do more harm than good.
3. Some health professionals advice against inducing vomiting after excessive alcohol drinking, food poisoning and drug overdose (4).
4. DO NOT try to induce vomiting if you–from experience–are expecting to have severe and painful stomach cramps to avoid tearing your esophagus.
5. DO NOT induce vomiting during pregnancy, for example, to relieve morning sickness.
6. There can be also more harm than benefit from inducing vomiting in common conditions with upset stomach or nausea, such as stomach flu and other childhood diseases, acid reflux with heartburn, gastroenteritis, hepatitis or kidney disease.
7. Inducing vomiting is NOT an appropriate method for weight loss.
DO NOT use OTC emetics and home remedies to induce vomiting.
OTC emetics are over-the-counter (non-prescription) substances that induce vomiting. Do not take anything by mouth to induce vomiting.
Ipecac syrup was once widely recommended for inducing vomiting, but American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association of Poison Control Centers and some other poison centers now advise against using it because of its unproven efficacy in removing toxic substances from the body and several possible side effects, such as lethargy, especially in children (2,3,12,13).
Drinking salt water may speed the movement of a toxic substance from the stomach into the small intestine and thus stimulate its absorption, so it is usually not recommended for inducing vomiting (2). Large amounts of saltwater can cause hypernatremia, seizures or even death, especially in children (8,13).
Other Substances to Avoid
- Activated charcoal is not reliable and safe substance for inducing vomiting at home; if aspirated, it may cause lung damage (11,13,15).
- Atropine, biperiden, diphenhydramine, doxylamine, scopolamine and other cholinergic antagonists in usual doses are not effective in inducing vomiting and, in larger doses, can have severe side effects, such as confusion, loss of coordination, inability to sweat (16).
- Copper sulfate is toxic (6).
- Bloodroot may be toxic (7).
- Lobelia tincture is potentially toxic (17).
- Hydrogen peroxide is intended to induce vomiting in animals, not humans.
- Marijuana is illegal in most countries and it can cause severe and prolonged vomiting that may require hospitalization (18).
There is lack of reliable information about the effectiveness and safety of drinking mustard in water, vinegar, milk of magnesia, detergents, tannic acid, a solution with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) or eating burnt toast, raw eggs or butter as emetics (13).
Eating large amount of food may speed the movement of a poison from the stomach into the intestine rather than make you throw up.
Side Effects and Dangers of Self-Induced Vomiting
During throwing up, some of the vomit may find its way into the breathing pathways and cause choking or, if it reaches the lungs, aspiration pneumonia.
Corroding substances in the vomit–acids or alkali–can cause chemical burns in the esophagus, throat and mouth (2).
Violent vomiting can cause partial thickness tear (Mallory-Weiss syndrome) or full thickness tear of the esophagus (Boerhaave syndrome), which are especially common in chronic alcoholics and after overeating in individuals with eating disorders (bulimia). Symptoms include severe lower chest or upper abdominal pain and vomiting blood (9).
Vomiting can relieve symptoms of hangover.
- First Aid for Chemical Exposure Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Vomiting – First Aid for Poisoning? An Incorrect Assumption Poisons Prevention and Education, New Zealand National Poisinons Centre
- Boyle JS, 2015, Pediatric Iron Toxicity Treatment & Management Emedicine
- Dealing with poisoning Patient.info
- Methanol: Systemic Agent Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
- Copper sulphate Inchem
- Bloodroot Drugs.com
- Cassavant MJ et al, 2003, Fatal hypernatremia from saltwater used as an emetic PubMed
- Boerhaave Syndrome, Clinical Presentation Emedicine
- Is there a fast help for an allergy to peanuts as there is for hay fever? If I have already eaten some, what can I do? European Food Information Council
- Bairral BQL et al, 2012, Activated charcoal bronchial aspiration Scielo.br
- 2003, Poison Treatment in the Home American Academy of Pediatrics
- What is ipecac syrup Poison.org
- Facts about strychnine Centers of Disease Control and Prevention
- Aspiration of Activated Charcoal Elicits an Increase in Lung Microvascular Permeability Informa Healthcare
- First aid for pesticide poisoning Cornell University
- Lobelia University of Maryland
- Appetite and nausea chart Massachusetts Institute of Technology