Dry Heaving

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Update Date 11/05/2020 . 4 mins read


What is dry heaving?

Dry heaving, sometimes called retching, refers to vomit-like feelings without any substance. Dry heaving happens when you attempt to vomit. Your airway closes off while your diaphragm contracts. Sometimes nausea accompanies dry heaving. Dry heaving may lead to vomiting, but it doesn’t always.

How common is dry heaving?

Dry heaving is extremely common. It can occur in patients in any gender at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Which signs and symptoms can dry heaving usually be associated with?

Related signs and symptoms include:

  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Indigestion
  • Abdominal pain


What causes dry heaving?

A combination of diaphragm contractions and a closed-off airway occurs during dry heaves. It creates vomiting-like sensations. Unlike during real vomiting, however, nothing comes up. Certain conditions, behaviors, and other factors can lead to dry heaving.


Exercising at too high of an intensity can cause your diaphragm to contract. In turn, that can lead to dry heaving. Exercising on a full stomach can also cause dry heaving.

Avoid eating a large meal right before exercising. You should also slowly build your tolerance to activity instead of starting at a high intensity. Doing so can reduce your risk of exercise-induced dry heaves. If you start to dry heave or feel nauseous, take a break and slowly sip small amounts of water.

Consuming excess alcohol

Binge drinking or drinking large amounts of alcohol can lead to dry heaving or vomiting. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Eating while you drink may also help avoid dry heaving. If you start to dry heave, stop consuming alcohol. Try slowly sipping water and nibbling on easy-to-digest foods, such as saltine crackers.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) causes symptoms of heartburn, also known as acid reflux. It can cause the regurgitation of partially digested foods and lead to discomfort while swallowing or breathing, among other symptoms. This condition may also cause dry heaving in some people.

Your doctor may prescribe medication to help manage symptoms of GERD. You can also try lifestyle changes, such as eating smaller meals or avoiding spicy or greasy foods.


Some medications for anxiety and depression may cause nausea and vomiting. If your doctor suspects that your current medication is causing you to dry heave, they may recommend switching to a different type or brand to offer relief. Do not change your medication without your doctor’s approval.

Other conditions

Other conditions that may lead to dry heaving are:

  • Infection
  • Anxiety
  • Pancreatitis
  • Severe liver or kidney problems

Treating these conditions should help reduce dry heaving. If you have one of these conditions and dry heaving, talk to your doctor. It’s important to let your doctor know about all of your symptoms, even if they don’t seem related.


Dry heaving is also common during early pregnancy, where many women experience morning sickness. You might experience dry heaving combined with nausea. Despite the name, morning sickness can happen at any time of day. Morning sickness and its related symptoms tend to ease up during the second trimester.

The conditions mentioned above are some common causes of dry heaving. Consult with your doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for dry heaving?

There are many risk factors for dry heaving, such as:

  • Degestive diseases
  • High-intensity physical activities
  • Use of certain medications
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Pregnancy

Please consult with your doctor for further information.

When to see your doctor

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you or your loved one has any of the following:

  • Prolonged dry heaving
  • Severe chest pain
  • Sharp abdominal pains
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • An increased heart rate
  • Little to no urination
  • Blood in your urine
  • Bloody vomit or stools
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe muscle pain or weakness

On noticing one of these symptoms or having any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor to get the best solutions for your situation.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dry heaving?

These following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dry heaving:

  • Taking very small, slow, sips of plain water can help a person rehydrate. It is often easier to start with ice chips or popsicles.
  • When the vomiting slows, a person should drink beverages rich in crucial hydration salts called electrolytes. These include many sports drinks and soup broths. Oral rehydration salt preparations can also be purchased premixed or prepared at home. Always start with small sips and increase the amount as tolerated.
  • Relax and rest. If possible, a person can lie down with their head elevated and breathe deeply. Relaxing breaths can help minimize the symptoms of dry heaving.
  • Food as tolerated. Once the vomiting has stopped, resume eating what appeals to you. Some find that plain foods such as porridge, toast, applesauce, broth, and bananas are easier to digest and reduce nausea. The key is to keep portions small.
  • Ginger supplements, chews, gums, and drinks have long been used to reduce nausea. Ginger is now an ingredient in some brand name anti-nausea medications, such as Gravol Ginger Tablets.
  • Isopropyl alcohol. A 2015 study found that smelling a packaged alcohol pad from 2.5 centimeters away for up to 4 minutes may help reduce nausea.
  • Plain carbohydrates. Saltines, dry toast, plain rice, and oatmeal are often relatively easy to digest.
  • Over-the-counter anti-nausea medications block the neurotransmitters that trigger nausea, dry heaving, and vomiting. Follow package instructions for use.
  • Over-the-counter antacids contain compounds, such as calcium carbonate, magnesium, and baking soda, that help neutralize stomach acids.
  • One small study has shown that inhalation of essential oils with ginger or a combination of ginger, spearmint, peppermint, and cardamom may lessen nausea after surgery.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor for the best solutions.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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