Chapter 3: Symptoms and health concerns
Nausea and vomiting – What can help
Healthcare providers may try various things to help diagnose the cause and recommend for treatment. Click on each for more information.
What the healthcare provider can do
They will likely do a complete physical examination.
A blood test may help indicate imbalances of chemicals in the blood. X-rays might be ordered to check for a blockage in the bowel.
The healthcare provider may prescribe medication based on what might be causing the problem. Sometimes more than one medication is needed.
Sometimes when nausea, vomiting, or both can be anticipated. This might be after a chemotherapy or radiation treatment, or a planned trip in the car. In these circumstances, medication can be taken in advance.
What families can do
The following ideas may help relieve or reduce nausea and provide some comfort. Click on each suggestion below to read more.
- Encourage smaller, more frequent meals.
- Offer cold or room temperature foods, and avoid fried, fatty, or acidic foods
- Try to avoid strong cooking smells. Ensure good ventilation if cooking must take place nearby.
- Encourage the person to drink liquids an hour before or after meals.
- Offer cold or chilled liquids. Try freezing liquids like Popsicles.
- Encourage bland foods such as crackers or dry toast, and avoid spicy foods.
- If nausea occurs in the morning, encourage the person to try eating dry foods like toast, crackers, or dry cereal before getting out of bed.
- Encourage the person to sit upright for about two hours after meals, if possible. If the person feels like vomiting and can’t sit up, they should lie on their side instead to help prevent choking.
Encourage the person to rinse their mouth. A teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of warm water may be helpful.
Avoid alcohol-based mouthwashes as they can irritate the mouth.
- Provide prescribed anti-nauseant medications on a regular schedule.
- If something is expected to cause nausea and vomiting, offer anti-nausea medication in advance.
- If vomiting occurs shortly after swallowing medicine, check with a healthcare provider to see what to do about replacing the dose that was vomited up.
If the person is unable to swallow their medicines or keep them down, discuss this with their healthcare provider. They may recommend one of the following:
- Liquid drops that can be given under the tongue
- Medication given through a needle injected under the skin, or through a patch so medication can be absorbed through the skin
- Using a suppository in the rectum
It is usually helpful to have these medications available so that they can be used if the person is unable to tolerate medicine by mouth.
Feeling worried or depressed can bring on feelings of nausea. Feelings of anxiety are common and should be discussed with a medical provider or someone who can provide counselling support.
Relaxation techniques can sometimes help reduce nausea and the need to vomit. Talk to a healthcare provider who can suggest or approve some strategies. *See PDF below.