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What is an Emesis Basin?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Emesis means getting sick to the stomach and or vomiting, and there are many other more colorful terms to describe this activity. In home settings, if people are lucky and reach the toilet, they typically will vomit into the toilet or perhaps into a sink. When unlucky, a towel, a wastebasket, or even the floor will do, as many people, especially young children, demonstrate on a regular basis. In medical settings one way to prevent these accidents to a degree is to provide a person who is nauseous with an emesis basin, a small bowl, often called “kidney shaped” due to its contours, which can collect vomit if needed.

In settings where medical care is provided, the emesis basin may be relatively small in size and is plastic. They usually aren’t recycled and are instead discarded or sent home with patients if not used. The small size really doesn’t make much sense, and the curve of the bowl could make it more difficult to accurately vomit without covering the self or the surroundings. The typical basin holds about seven to nine ounces (.21-.27 liters), which may not be adequate if a large volume of vomiting occurs at once. There are some larger stainless steel bowls that have greater capacity and can be sterilized and recycled as needed.

Given the impracticality of the emesis basin for certain vomiting needs, it’s no wonder that sometimes they’re not used and patients may be handed something larger, or assisted to a toilet or sink if they feel nauseous. Especially in hospitals or in ambulance settings, vomit may be significant of certain forms of illnesses and it might need to be retained and analyzed by medical workers. Other medical supplies may be easier for emesis collection, while preventing mess.

This does not mean that the emesis basin is useless and, in fact, these bowls get used frequently for other medical things. They are helpful if people need to expectorate frequently, as from serious coughing. Another way they get used is when cleaning and irrigating small wounds. Alternately, if people are having wax cleaned from their ears with rinsing, a basin may be held up to the ear to catch wax and fluid as it leaves the ear canal. Sometimes doctors or nurses will even carry regular shots like immunizations in an emesis basin.

One of the reasons small plastic emesis basins are used so often is because they’re very inexpensive. In bulk sales, a single basin costs about 20 cents of a US Dollar (USD) or less. People are often offered these to take home after being in the hospital, and provided they haven’t been used for their intended purpose, many folks are happy to take one home. If folks can get past the name, these bowls are good for growing seedlings, as bath toys, holding cosmetics, or a variety of other purposes.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
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Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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