Vomiting blood (hematemesis) refers to significant amounts of blood in your vomit. Small streaks or flecks of blood in material you spit up or cough up isn't usually considered vomiting blood. Blood in vomit may be bright red, or it may appear black or dark brown like coffee grounds.
While vomiting blood may be caused by swallowed blood, as from a nosebleed or forceful coughing, truly vomiting blood usually represents something more serious and requires immediate medical attention. Bleeding in your upper gastrointestinal tract (mouth, esophagus, stomach and upper small intestine) from peptic ulcers or torn blood vessels is a common cause of vomiting blood. Call 911 if vomiting blood causes dizziness after standing, rapid, shallow breathing or other signs of shock.
Call 911 or emergency medical assistance
Call 911 if vomiting blood causes signs and symptoms of shock, such as:
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Dizziness or lightheadedness after standing up
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Low urine output
Seek immediate medical attention
Ask someone to drive you to urgent care or the emergency room if you notice blood in your vomit or begin vomiting blood. It's important to quickly identify the underlying cause of the bleeding and prevent more severe blood loss and other complications.
Apr. 28, 2011
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- Bleeding in the digestive tract. National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/bleeding/index.htm. Accessed March 11, 2011.
- Jutabha R, et al. Uncommon causes of upper gastrointestinal bleeding. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed March 11, 2011.
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- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 28, 2011.