“The dry heaves” is a term that is commonly applied to a situation in which a person finds she is unable to stop the involuntary attempt to vomit after the contents of the stomach have been expelled. The body continues to go through the motions, but nothing emerges from the mouth. This occurs when the area of the brain stem that controls vomiting has been over stimulated. With time, the situation will generally resolve itself. While you’re waiting for your system to settle, here are a few things you can try to speed up the process.
Over the Counter
If you happen to have any on hand, you may want to take a Dramamine. This may seem like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, but the medication disables powerful brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters carry messages that affect other parts of the body. When Dramamine is present, these messages do not get delivered, deactivating the brain’s vomiting center. Antihistamines such as Antivert and Bonine have a similar effect on the system and can also be used to halt the dry heaves.
Vomiting causes a loss of both food and fluid. To aid in your recovery and help prevent dehydration, take small sips of clear liquids. The goal is to take in only one or two ounces at a time, so sip slowly. Start with water, weak tea or apple juice and follow this with 1 tsp. of cola syrup or 2 tbsp. of flat cola. The carbohydrates will help to keep your blood sugar elevated and the caffeine will increase your energy level. You can also try slurping on a Popsicle between sips of water as the coolness of the treat tends to be soothing to the throat.
Once you can keep liquids down, you need to think about replacing lost nutrients as well. Switch from water to clear soup and Gatorade or Pedialite. If that goes well, add a few saltine crackers or a piece of dry toast. For an old fashioned approach, try a bit of milk toast. Place one cup of milk into a shallow, microwavable bowl. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is warm, but not boiling. Then take a single slice of lightly buttered toast and tear it into pieces. Place the pieces in the bowl and allow them to absorb the warm milk. The bland taste and soft texture of this dish are easy to digest and can bring a measure of relief to those with an upset stomach. Alternatively, you may want to consider munching on a few gingersnaps or a piece of crystallized ginger as studies in Lancet, a leading medical journal in the UK, show that ginger in any form helps to stop nausea and vomiting.