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How toControl Nausea and Vomiting

Man holding glass of water, preparing to take pill.
Taken before meals, medicines can help ease nausea.

Nausea is feeling that you need to throw up. Throwing up occurs when your body forces food that is in your stomach out through your mouth. Nausea and vomiting are symptoms that are caused by many things. They can happen when a condition or disease, medicine, medical treatment, or a poisonous substance affects the area in your brain that controls vomiting. Some conditions or diseases can cause nausea, abdominal pain or cramps, and vomiting. The symptoms can be mild and go away by themselves. Other symptoms can be serious. You will need to see your health care provider for these.

Nausea and vomiting are common. They can be caused by many things. These include:

  • "Stomach flu" (gastroenteritis)

  • Food poisoning

  • Stomach pain (gastritis)

  • Blockages

They can also be caused by a head injury, an infection in the brain or inside the ear, or migraines. Other common causes of nausea and vomiting include:

  • Brain tumor

  • Brain bruise

  • Motion sickness

  • Drugs. These include alcohol, pain medicines such as morphine, and cancer medicines.

  • Toxins. These are poisonous things like plants or liquids that are swallowed by accident.

  • Diabetic ketoacidosis

  • Advanced types of cancer

  • Movement problems (psychogenic problems)

  • Extra pressure in the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord (intracranial pressure)

 

Nausea and vomiting are also common side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Side effects happen when treatment changes some normal cells as well as cancer cells. In this case, the cells lining your stomach and the part of your brain that controls vomiting are affected. Other more serious causes of vomiting may be hard to find early in the illness.

 

Call the doctor

Call your health care provider right away if you have the following:

  • Nausea or vomiting that lasts 24 hours or more

  • Trouble keeping fluids down

Medicines can help

Nausea or vomiting can often be prevented or controlled with medicines (antiemetics). Your doctor may give you antiemetics before or after treatment if you are getting chemotherapy or other medical treatments that cause nausea or vomiting.

Eating tips

  • If you have medicines to control nausea, take them before meals as directed.

  • Avoid fatty or greasy foods while nauseated.

  • Eat small meals slowly throughout the day.

  • Ask someone to sit with you while you eat to keep you from thinking about feeling nauseated.

  • Eat foods at room temperature or colder to avoid strong smells.

  • Eat dry foods, such as toast, crackers, or pretzels. Also eat cool, light foods, such as applesauce, and bland foods, such as oatmeal or skinned chicken. 

Other ways to feel better

  • Get a little fresh air. Take a short walk.

  • Talk to a friend, listen to music, or watch TV.

  • Take a few deep, slow breaths.

  • Eat by candlelight or in surroundings that you find relaxing.

  • Use a technique, such as guided imagery, to help you relax. Imagine yourself in a beautiful, restful scene. Or daydream about the place you’d most like to be.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Welch, Annette, MNS OCN
Last Review Date: 10/23/2013
© 2000-2015 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.