Vomit Color– Green, Yellow, Brown, Black, Clear

So you are puking.  Ugh. I’m sorry to hear that.  Not to be a Debbie Downer but you might have the stomach bug.  Yuck.  Not all funky vomit colors are from the stomach bug though! 

Let’s talk about common vomit color concerns.  Disclaimer: do not read if you get queasy easily 🤣🤣🤣

Green/Yellow Vomit

Green vomit could be the green frosting your kiddo just ate way too much of… or could be something else if they didn’t just smash back three pieces of Green Monster themed cake.

Green vomit after having a few episodes of vomiting can be from bile in the stomach which is typically green/yellow in color.  Bile is made from the liver and stored in the gallbladder until it is used by the stomach to break down food. Green vomit or bile is usually seen when the stomach is empty, either because you have been vomiting all night, or you just woke up and have nothing to vomit, except the bile sitting in your belly waiting for breakfast.

People with morning sickness for example can wake up with an empty stomach and vomit bile.  Someone who vomited all night will also wake up with a similar empty stomach. Make sense?

If this green vomit lasts more than a few days, or is accompanied by severe pain, fever, weakness, constipation, or any other concerning symptoms, you should get checked out right away.  Chat with us about your green vomit.  We can help figure things out!

Brown Vomit

Brown vomit can be the cause of eating too many chocolate brownies… Or can be associated with more serious issues.  It is most commonly going to be because of brown food. Let’s talk about more serious issues in case you are having brown vomit.  

The first serious issue we worry about is whether this brown vomit is actually blood.  Old blood turns to a dark brown color and can sometimes look like dark coffee grounds. If you have brown vomit (and didn’t eat a ton of brownies),  especially if it looks like coffee grounds, then you should be concerned. Bleeding in the stomach can cause there to be blood that darkens up by the time it is puked out.  This can be a serious issue.  

If you have abdominal pain or a history of ulcers or acid reflux (AKA heartburn) then you should be checked out to be sure this brown vomit isn’t blood. Most offices can do a simple test that will tell you if there is blood in the vomit or if it’s just a brownie…(you can always bring in a sample for them to test if you are courageous). 

Now sit down for this one.  Ok, are you sitting? If there is severe constipation, and stool (poop anyone?) is backed up, you can vomit brown poop-smelling vomit.  Gross, right?? But think about it… What comes in, must come out! If the poop isn’t getting evacuated properly (through the normal exit), it can come back up.  If this is the case, you likely haven’t pooped in a while. If you have poop smelling vomit, bloating, and abdominal pain, then get yourself seen. You will likely need a cleanout for your constipation.

Get checked right away if you are experiencing these symptoms.  

Black Vomit or Coffee Ground Vomit

What if you are throwing up black? Very dark brown or black vomit can be old blood, again, especially if it appears to look like coffee grounds.  If you are unsure of the actual color, take a bit of vomit and smear it on a white paper towel. This should help you to see if it is really dark green, or truly black.  Maybe it’s just from all the kale and spinach you have been eating, or the black frosting you ate at the Halloween party yesterday.  

But if this appears red at all or truly black (and you didn’t eat black frosting or have been taking Pepto Bismol), you need to get checked out.  Old blood, likely from further down the digestive tract, can turn black over time. Get checked right away, especially if you have any pain or history of stomach or digestive issues.  Black vomit is not normal, unless of course, frosting.  

Clear Vomit

Do you have the stomach bug? Just chugged some water on an empty stomach?  It’s going to look like water. Vomiting clear liquid like this is a common result. Don’t panic. You will likely have green/yellow vomit soon, see above.  Clear vomit can be normal when you have an empty stomach and are vomiting.

If you hit your head and are suddenly vomiting clear fluid, or vomiting at all, get looked at.  This can be a sign of a serious issue. Another red flag is clear vomiting that persists and doesn’t seem to improve after 24 hours or when accompanied by inability to ingest food or liquids.

Pink or Red Vomit  

Bloody vomit deserves a check by a medical provider.  Unless of course you had a bloody nose or smashed your lip and swallowed some blood.  In that case, a small amount of blood is ok, as blood is pretty irritating to the stomach. Once you swallow it, it’s likely to come back up. Don’t get too worried if it happens once or twice but then stops when you’re no longer vomiting. Vomit that has a little blood once but then clears up right after usually isn’t an issue. 

It also isn’t abnormal to have a little tiny amount of blood in your vomit once it’s the 15th or 16th time you vomited from a stomach bug. With that constant retching, you can also get tiny tears in your esophagus that lead to a little bit of blood. As long as it goes away quickly (like only 1 or 2 episodes of vomit with a little blood), don’t panic. Check with us or your provider. 

If you notice large amounts of blood, like filling the toilet bowl, or coffee ground or dark red vomiting, then get checked right away.  Large amounts of bloody vomit can be a sign of a serious issue with your liver, a tear in your esophagus, or some other life threatening emergency. Large amounts of bloody vomit are never normal. Also, persistent bloody vomit is never normal either. Unless… you guessed it, frosting! Or red Kool-Aid. Or pepto-bismol. Or that red popsicle you were craving. 

Vomiting the Colors of the Rainbow

Don’t panic.  Don’t google. Talk to us about your vomit! We are here to help you.  Searching the web about vomit color can be scary without taking into consideration all of your current symptoms.  Ask a nurse first.  

Kim Liner, RN, MSN, CPNP

Nurse-1-1 Health Center is written by nurses in a straight to the point type of way to provide basic health information. We get a lot of people like you searching online for answers to health concerns or looking for a hotline to ask a nurse a few questions. Questions like how to prevent concussions in kids?  What should parents know about screen time for toddlers? What’s the best way to approach shingles prevention in the elderly? Well we can help. We put some info here for you to find while searching through all that other dry, scary medical information online. Stop that. Read our posts, or chat with us. This is not medical advice or a replacement for medical care, but see what we have to say with our free health information, and hopefully it will stop you from scaring yourself any more than you already have. We can help.