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When you have nausea and vomiting

Alternate Names

Nausea - self-care; Vomiting - self-care

Symptoms and Causes

Having nausea (being sick to your stomach) and vomiting (throwing up) can be very difficult to go through:

  • A stomach illness or pregnancy can cause nausea.
  • Some medical treatment, such as a cancer treatment, can also cause nausea.
  • Even anxiety (severe worry or stress) can cause nausea and vomiting.

Being nauseous can make you not want to eat, and it can lead to unhealthy weight loss. Vomiting can make you dehydrated (dried out), and that can be dangerous. Once you and your doctor find the cause of your nausea or vomiting, you may be asked to take medicine, change your diet, or try other things to make you feel better.

How to Treat Nausea and Vomiting

Sit quietly when you feel nauseous. Sometimes moving around can make nausea worse. Try to take a nap. But do not lie down.

Drink 8 - 10 glasses of clear fluids every day. Water is best. You can also sip fruit juices and flat soda (leave the can or bottle open to get rid of the bubbles). Try sports drinks to replace minerals and other nutrition you may be losing when you throw up.

Eat 6 - 8 small meals throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals:

  • Eat bland foods. Some of these are crackers, English muffins, toast, baked chicken and fish, potatoes, noodles, and rice.
  • Try low-fat dairy products.
  • Eat foods with a lot of water in them. Try clear soups, popsicles, and Jell-O.
  • If you have a bad taste in your mouth, try rinsing with a solution of baking soda, salt, and warm water before you eat. Use 1 teaspoon baking soda, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 4 cups warm water. Spit out after rinsing.
  • Sit up after you eat. Do not lie down.
  • Find a quiet, pleasant place to eat, free of odors and distractions.

Other tips that may help:

  • Suck on hard candies or rinse your mouth with water after vomiting. Or you can rinse with the baking soda and salt solution above.
  • Try to get outside for some fresh air.
  • Watch a movie or TV to take your mind away from your nausea.

Your doctor may also recommend medicine:

  • Anti-nausea medicines usually start working 30 - 60 minutes after you take them.
  • When you come home after being treated with cancer drugs, you may want to use these medicines regularly for 1 or more days. Use them when nausea first starts. Do not wait until you feel very sick to your stomach.

If you are vomiting after taking any of your medicines, tell your doctor or nurse.

Things You Should Avoid

You should avoid some specific kinds of foods when you have nausea and vomiting:

  • Avoid greasy and processed foods, and foods that contain a lot of salt. Some of these are white breads, pastries, doughnuts, sausage, fast-food burgers, fried foods, chips, and many canned foods.
  • Avoid foods with strong smells.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks.
  • Avoid very spicy foods.

When to Call the Doctor

Call your doctor if you or your child:

  • Cannot keep any food or liquid down
  • Vomit 3 or more times in 1 day
  • Are nauseous for more than 48 hours
  • Feel weakness
  • Have fever
  • Have stomach pain
  • Do not have to urinate for 8 hours or more

References

Abrahm JL, Fowler BF. Nausea, vomiiting, and early satiety. In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al, eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2008:chap 169.

Hainsworth JD. Nausea and vomiting. In: Abeloff MD, Armitage JO, Niederhuber JE, Kastan MB, McKenna WG, eds. Abeloff’s Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2008:chap 39.

Updated: 8/10/2012

Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington; and George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.


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