How to Throw Up: 5 Steps to Vomit Safely (& When It Is Appropriate)

Clinical review: Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
May 2022

Vomiting is a natural reflex that the body uses to eliminate spoiled food or toxic substances in the stomach. The body will automatically stimulate the vomiting reflex when necessary. Vomiting should only be induced if indicated by a doctor or if you are experiencing very intense symptoms after eating that do not improve with other techniques. 

If you have ingested a poisonous substance and an irritating liquid, like clearing products, you should not attempt to vomit, as the liquid will have to reenter the throat, causing more damage. In these situations, you should proceed immediately to the hospital to start appropriate treatment. 

5 ways to vomit safely 

To vomit safely and to prevent discomfort or serious complications, you should: 

1. Wash your hands thoroughly

Washing you hands is very important to prevent the transmission of bacteria and other microorganisms to the throat, which can cause infections like tonsillitis. 

2. Kneel in front of the toilet

Kneeling in front of the toilet is one of the most comfortable and safest positions to vomit in. You should avoid putting too much pressure on the stomach, as it can cause more discomfort. 

3. Place a finger in your throat 

There is a point at the front of your throat that can be squeezed to stimulate the vomiting reflex. To reach it, you should place a finger in your mouth, and slightly press down on the area behind the tongue, where your throat starts. The desire to vomit will appear almost immediately, although some people will need to do this 2 to 3 times to be able to vomit, as the brain may try to block the signal the first few times.

4. Drink 1 cup of water

After vomiting, it is important to drink a cup of water to remove any excess stomach acid that remains on the stomach walls. This can reduce any stomach burning and inflammation from acid.

5. Wait 30 minutes before washing your teeth 

Although you may feel the desire to brush your teeth immediately after vomiting, it is best t o just rinse and gargle with water. The teeth will be quite sensitive after coming in contact with stomach acid, and brushing your teeth may worsen this. Therefore, you should wait about 30 minutes after vomiting to brush your teeth. 

Possible risks of inducing vomiting 

One of the biggest risks of inducing vomiting is the possibility of causing a pneumonia. This happens because when you vomit, stomach content returns to the mouth, and when it flows back up, it can be aspirated into the lungs. If this occurs, the lungs will usually become inflamed and bacteria in the food can start to grow in the lungs, leading to pneumonia. 

Frequent vomiting can cause wounds in the esophagus and mouth, as these are lined with very sensitive tissue that are not made to be in direct contact with gastric acid. 

What can cause vomiting 

Although the desire to vomit is a common symptom, there are specific situations in which vomiting can be a sign of an abnormality. Some of these include: 

  • Serious abdominal problems, like appendicitis or bowel obstruction 
  • Problems in the digestive system, like food poisoning or ulcers 
  • Problems in the nervous system, like meningitis, hydrocephalus or tumors
  • Pregnancy, especially after the 6th week 
  • Use of medications, like digoxin, codeine and chemotherapy drugs  

There are many situations in which inducing vomiting is not associated with significant risks. However if you feel the desire to vomit frequently and it does not improve, or if you have other symptoms like blood in the vomit or a foul odor, you should proceed to the hospital for assessment..

When you should not induce vomiting 

You should never vomit to remove recently ingested food, just because you feel you ate too much. If you feel the desire to vomit for weight loss reasons, you may be experiencing bulimia. This is an eating disorder which is characterized by the desire to vomit out of fear of weight gain. 

In addition, if you have accidentally consumed a poisonous substance or cleaning product, you should not try to vomit, as you may increase the risk for esophageal burns. 

Was this information helpful?

Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em May de 2022. Clinical review por Manuel Reis - Registered Nurse, em May de 2022.
Clinical review:
Manuel Reis
Registered Nurse
Manuel graduated in 2013 and is licensed to practice under the Ordem dos Enfermeiros de Portugal, with license #79026. He specializes in Advanced Clinical Phytotherapy.