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Nausea is the sensation of having a queasy stomach or being about to vomit. Vomiting , or emesis, is the expelling of undigested food through the mouth.


Nausea is a reaction to a number of causes that include overeating, infection, or irritation of the throat or stomach lining. Persistent or recurrent nausea and vomiting should be checked by a doctor.

A doctor should be called if nausea and vomiting occur:

  • after eating rich or spoiled food or taking a new medication
  • repeatedly or for 48 hours or longer
  • following intense dizziness

It is important to see a doctor if nausea and vomiting are accompanied by:

  • yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes
  • pain in the chest or lower abdomen
  • trouble with swallowing or urination
  • dehydration or extreme thirst
  • drowsiness or confusion
  • constant, severe abdominal pain
  • a fruity breath odor

A doctor should be notified if vomiting is heavy and/or bloody; if the vomitus looks like coffee grounds or feces; or if the patient has been unable to keep food down for 24 hours.

An ambulance or emergency response number should be called immediately if:

  • Diabetic shock is suspected.
  • Nausea and vomiting continue after other symptoms of viral infection have subsided.
  • The patient has a severe headache .
  • The patient is sweating and having chest pain and trouble breathing.
  • The patient is known or suspected to have swallowed a drug overdose or poisonous substance.
  • The patient has a high body temperature, muscle cramps, and other signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
  • Nausea, vomiting, and breathing problems occur after exposure to a known allergen.

Causes & symptoms

Persistent, unexplained, or recurring nausea and vomiting can be symptoms of a variety of serious illnesses. It can be caused by simply overeating or drinking too much alcohol. It can be due to stress , certain medications, or illness. For example, people who are given morphine or other opioid medications for pain relief after surgery sometimes feel nauseated by the drug. Such poisonous substances as arsenic and other heavy metals cause nausea and vomiting. Morning sickness is a consequence of pregnancy-related hormone changes. Motion sickness can be induced by traveling in a vehicle, plane, or on a boat. Many patients experience nausea after eating spoiled food or foods to which they are allergic. Patients who suffer migraine headache often experience nausea. Cancer patients on chemotherapy are often nauseated. Gallstones, gastroenteritis , and stomach ulcer may cause nausea and vomiting. Such infectious illnesses as dengue fever and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. These symptoms should be evaluated by a physician.


Diagnosis is based on the severity, frequency, and duration of symptoms, and other factors that could indicate the presence of a serious illness.


Getting a breath of fresh air or getting away from whatever is causing the nausea can solve the problem. Eating olives or crackers or sucking on a lemon can calm the stomach by absorbing acid and excess fluid. Coke syrup is another proven antiemetic remedy.

Vomiting relieves nausea immediately but can cause dehydration. Sipping clear juices, weak tea, and some sports drinks help replace lost fluid and minerals without irritating the stomach. Food should be reintroduced gradually, beginning with small amounts of dry, bland food like crackers and toast.


Biofeedback uses exercise and deep relaxation to control nausea.


Acupuncture is increasingly regarded as a useful adjunct to treating nausea. A growing body of literature shows that acupuncture is effective in treating nausea associated with pregnancy , surgery, and chemotherapy for cancer. The most effective acupuncture point for nausea appears to be PC-6.

A few patients, however, may experience temporary nausea as a side effect of acupuncture. It is not considered a serious side effect.


Acupressure (applying pressure to specific areas of the body) may be helpful in reducing nausea and vomiting and relaxes the gastrointestinal tract. Acupressure can be applied by wearing a special wristband or by applying firm pressures to the:

  • back of the jawbone
  • webbing between the thumb and index finger
  • top of the foot
  • inside of the wrist
  • base of the rib cage

Nutritional therapy

  • Rehydration. It is very important to replace fluid loss through prolonged vomiting. However, patients should take fluid in slowly to prevent shock to the body. Fruit juice or soup are even better than plain water because they also contain glucose and salt, which may also be deficient.
  • Avoid eating solids right away. Patients should wait until the body has enough rests and the stomach has a chance to settle down before starting on solid foods.
  • Bland foods. To avoid overworking the digestive system too soon, patients should resume eating with bland food such as toast or yogurt. In addition, they should not try to eat too much right away, as this also stresses out the digestive system.
  • Lactaid. Lactaid helps prevent upset stomach in persons allergic to milk.

Herbal treatments

There are several herbal remedies that can help alleviate short bouts of nausea and vomiting.

  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita ) or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis ) tea may relieve symptoms.
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale ), a very effective herbal remedy for nausea, can be drunk as tea or taken as candy or powered capsules. Ginger has been shown in several studies to relieve morning sickness associated with pregnancy.
  • Peppermint tea is effective in alleviating nausea and vomiting associated with indigestion.
  • Stomach tea, a combination of anise seed, fennel , peppermint and thyme , is a good herbal treatment for gas.
  • Strong green tea can stop nausea especially if it is caused by eating spoiled foods.


Depending on a patient's specific condition, a homeopathic practitioner may prescribe one of the following remedies: Arsenicum album, Carbo vegetabilis, Ignatia, homeopathic ipecac , and Nux vomica.


Peppermint or lavender oil when inhaled, calms the body and reduces nausea and vomiting.

Allopathic treatment

Meclizine (Bonine), a medication for motion sickness, also diminishes the feeling of queasiness in the stomach. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), another motion-sickness drug, is not effective on other types of nausea and may cause drowsiness.

Newer drugs that have been developed to treat postoperative or postchemotherapy nausea and vomiting include ondansetron (Zofran) and granisetron (Kytril). Another treatment that has been found to lower the risk of nausea after surgery is intravenous administration of supplemental fluid before the operation.


Massage, meditation, yoga , and other relaxation techniques can help prevent stress-induced nausea. Antinausea medication taken before traveling can prevent motion sickness. Sitting in the front seat, focusing on the horizon, and traveling after dark can also minimize symptoms.

Food should be fresh, properly prepared, and eaten slowly. Overeating, tight-fitting clothes, and strenuous activity immediately after a meal should be avoided.



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Mai Tran

Rebecca J. Frey, PhD

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nausea The unpleasant sensation vaguely located in the upper abdomen and chest which heralds vomiting or fainting, but which may also occur without dramatic issue. Nausea is well known to accompany strong negative emotion — disgust, fear, horror — or severe pain; also a side-effect of some drugs and of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and a feature of a variety of gastro–intestinal and other diseases. Its physical basis is the autonomic nervous system and the associated visceral afferents (nerves bringing in information from the gut); there may be nervous inputs from a diseased or insulted stomach or intestine, with appropriate reflex responses, or the system may be activated ‘inappropriately’ from higher regions of the brain.

Stuart Judge

See visceral sensation; vomiting.

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"nausea." The Oxford Companion to the Body. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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nausea, sensation of discomfort, or queasiness, in the stomach. It may be caused by irritation of the stomach by food or drugs, unpleasant odors, overeating, fright, or psychological stress. It is usually relieved by vomiting. Nausea is frequently present during the early months of pregnancy, and it is a concomitant of motion sickness. However, nausea may also be the symptom of a serious illness; thus persistent nausea should receive medical attention.

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"nausea." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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nausea feeling of sickness XVI; strong disgust XVII. — L. nausea, nausia — Gr. nausā, nautíā, seasickness, nausea, f. naûs ship (see NAVAL).
So nauseate reject with nausea; affect with nausea. XVII. f. pp. stem of L. nauseāre. nauseous XVII.

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"nausea." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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nau·se·a / ˈnôzēə; -zhə/ • n. a feeling of sickness with an inclination to vomit. ∎  loathing; revulsion: intended to induce a feeling of nostalgia, it only induces in me a feeling of nausea.

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"nausea." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . 14 Dec. 2017 <>.

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nausea (naw-ziă) n. the feeling that one is about to vomit, as experienced in seasickness. Actual vomiting often occurs subsequently.

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nauseacassia, glacier •apraxia, dyspraxia •banksia • eclampsia •estancia, fancier, financier, Landseer •intarsia, mahseer, Marcia, tarsier •bartsia, bilharzia •anorexia, dyslexia •intelligentsia • dyspepsia •Dacia, fascia •Felicia, Galicia, indicia, Lycia, Mysia •asphyxia, elixir, ixia •dossier • nausea •Andalusia, Lucia •overseer • Mercia • Hampshire •Berkshire • Caernarvonshire •Cheshire • differentia • Breconshire •Devonshire • Ayrshire •Galatia, Hypatia, solatia •alopecia, godetia, Helvetia •Alicia, Leticia •Derbyshire • Berwickshire •Cambridgeshire • Warwickshire •Argyllshire • quassia • Shropshire •Yorkshire • Staffordshire •Hertfordshire • Bedfordshire •Herefordshire • Oxfordshire •Forfarshire • Lancashire •Lincolnshire • Monmouthshire •Buckinghamshire • Nottinghamshire •Northamptonshire • Leicestershire •Wigtownshire • Worcestershire

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