Health adults

Nausea


Nausea: Causes and Symptoms

Nausea is a sensation of unease and discomfort in the upper stomach with an involuntary urge to vomit. It may precede vomiting, but a person can have nausea without vomiting. When prolonged, it is a debilitating symptom.

Nausea is a non-specific symptom, which means that it has many possible causes. Some common causes of nausea are motion sickness, dizziness, migraine, fainting, low blood sugar, gastroenteritis (stomach infection) or food poisoning. Nausea is a side effect of many medications including chemotherapy, or morning sickness in early pregnancy. Nausea may also be caused by anxiety, disgust and depression.

Causes

Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, but they are symptoms of many conditions such as:

  • Motion sickness or seasickness
  • Early stages of pregnancy (nausea occurs in approximately 50%-90% of all pregnancies; vomiting in 25%-55%)
  • Medication-induced vomiting
  • Intense pain
  • Emotional stress (such as fear)
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Food poisoning
  • Infections (such as the “stomach flu”)
  • Overeating
  • A reaction to certain smells or odors
  • Heart attack
  • Concussion or brain injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Ulcers
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Bulimia or other psychological illnesses
  • Gastroparesis or slow stomach emptying (a condition that can be seen in people with diabetes)
  • Ingestion of toxins or excessive amounts of alcohol

How to Get Rid of Nausea

1. Sit up and avoid crunching the stomach

If your mom ever told you not to lie down after eating, she was on to something. When you lie flat, gastric juices may rise and increase feelings of nausea and overall discomfort, especially if you have acid reflux or GERD.

Crunching your stomach may also worsen nausea since it compresses the area and makes you less comfortable in general. When you’re nauseous, try reclining with your upper body elevated, and move around as little as possible.

2. Open a window or sit in front of a fan

There’s a reason you see carsick people with their heads practically hanging out of the car window. Fresh air eases nausea symptoms in many people, although it’s not clear why. It may get rid of sickening odors, or simply help you focus on something other than the nausea.

Try sitting in front of a fan or window at the first sign of nausea, especially if you’re overheated.

3. Apply a cool compress

A soothing, cool compress placed on the back of the neck may help ease nausea. When nausea occurs, your body temperature may increase.

Placing a cool compress on the back of your neck for several minutes can be soothing. It also helps decrease your body temperature which, if high, may cause nausea.

4. Apply pressure

Acupressure is an alternative medicine therapy that applies pressure to specific areas on the body to ease symptoms. The pressure point for nausea is on your inner wrist, about two and a half inches down, in between two large tendons. To ease nausea, press on this pressure point in a circular motion for a few minutes.

5. Take deep breaths

Meditation, the practice of focusing and calming the mind, may help relieve nausea. It’s a type of relaxation technique that may be especially beneficial for nausea caused by stress and anxiety.

Deep breathing is a meditation technique. But you can also do it on your own to quell stress-related nausea. Breathe in slowly through your nose, hold your breath for three seconds, and slowly breathe out. Repeat several times until nausea subsides.

6. Stay hydrated

If you can’t eat or drink due to nausea, dehydration may occur. Nausea is also a symptom of dehydration, yet drinking too much may worsen nausea by making your stomach feel uncomfortably full.

When you feel queasy, sip fluids throughout the day. If straight water turns your stomach, try drinking decaf tea, or water with fresh fruit slices.

7. Avoid carbonated beverages

There’s an old wives’ tale that drinking carbonated beverages such as ginger ale or cola helps tame tummy troubles. The opposite is often true.

Carbonated drinks may cause bloating and worsen acid reflux and GERD, all of which may cause nausea. In addition, most fizzy beverages are loaded with sugar, which may also make you queasier.

If you must drink a fizzy drink, let it go flat or dilute it with water before drinking.

Reviewed by the QSota Medical Advisory Board