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What are Emetics?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Emetics are chemical compounds which can be administered to induce vomiting. One well known and widely used emetic is syrup of ipecac, but there are other compounds available, and some emetics can be made from common household items. These compounds are used in a wide variety of settings around the world. It is important to administer these with care, as overuse can endanger someone's health. Before using such drugs, people should call a doctor or nurse for advice.

One of the classic reasons to use an emetic is because someone has ingested something which could be harmful. The emetic is used to get the patient to bring up whatever he or she consumed before it has a chance to be absorbed by the body. They can be used in cases of drug overdoses, poisoning, accidental exposure to allergens, and so forth. It is important to make sure that the emetic is administered in a hospital, as there may be cases in which emetics are actually contraindicated. If someone is exposed to something dangerous, a poison control center should be called for advice.

Some emetics are designed to be swallowed, while others can be injected. Vomiting can happen almost immediately after the drug is introduced to the patient's system, and can persist for varying lengths of time. If emetics are used, the patient must be kept properly hydrated, as excessive vomiting can lead to dehydration. The patient may also experience other symptoms, such as sore abdominal muscles from stomach cramps. If emetics are administered in excess, the patient's heart can become strained.

Historically, people were advised to keep emetics in their home for use in case of emergency. This practice is less encouraged today, in part because they are not always recommended for use, and also because there is a potential for children or pets to become ill if they consume an emetic in large volume. In addition, such compounds are sometimes used by people with eating disorders to purge, and making them less accessible by keeping them out of the house can be beneficial.

Sometimes, people want to stop vomiting, instead of starting. Drugs known as antiemetics can be used in this case. These can also be combined with anti-nausea drugs. People often feel nauseous and experiences frequent emesis during cancer treatment and treatment for some other diseases. People who experience excessive vomiting should discuss it with their doctors to see if there are treatment options available.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a TheHealthBoard researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon1007126 — On Jun 05, 2022

They always discontinue the things that work best.

By Charmagne — On Jun 14, 2011

I had to do a paper for school about medicine in the early 1900’s. I could not believe some of the things that were commonly used to make patients vomit. I found an emetics list that included salt, warm water, alum, and mustard. Sometimes, copper sulfate was used. This was not as effective and usually had to be followed with a different emetic.

Adder’s tongue was also used as an emetic. The plant was made into a tea. Dogwood extract has also been used. I was also surprised to read that daffodil bulbs were used in a drink to induce throwing up.

By Matis — On Jun 11, 2011

My mom used to keep a bottle if ipecac syrup under the bathroom sink. It was one of the emetics that were frequently kept in homes when my mom was younger, too. I don’t think ipecac is manufactured much anymore. I know it is not advised to be used in the home for accidental poisonings anymore.

Ipecac was found to have little benefit for a person’s health. We got rid of any emetics before I had my daughter. These aren’t something I would keep around unless I really had to.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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