Nausea is a feeling of sickness in the stomach that could lead to vomiting. Vomiting is the forceful discharge of stomach contents through the mouth caused by contraction of the stomach muscles. Chemotherapy and medications can cause nausea or vomiting or both.

Your health care provider can prescribe medications to prevent vomiting (called anti-emetics) or nausea. These medications can be taken by mouth, placed under the tongue, given through an IV, or given as a shot.

In cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, nausea and vomiting can sometimes occur as a learned or “conditioned” response to past episodes of nausea and vomiting. This psychological condition is called anticipatory nausea and vomiting. It can occur before receiving chemotherapy, upon arriving at a facility (due to the upcoming stress of treatment or in response to specific smells (for example to specific foods), sights, or sounds.


  • Drink fluids, such as water or juice, throughout the day. Avoid drinking liquids with your meals.
  • Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.
  • Eat dry foods (like crackers, toast, or dry cereal) without liquids, especially when eating first thing in the morning.
  • Avoid heavy, high fat, and greasy meals.
  • Eat before you get hungry.
  • Take anti-nausea medication 20 to 30 minutes before taking all other oral medicines.
  • Take medication to prevent or treat nausea as prescribed.
  • Avoid strong smells.
  • Do not lie flat for 2 hours after eating.
  • Do not exercise right after you eat.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Distract attention to how you are feeling by listening to music, practicing relaxation techniques, reading, or watching tv/movies.
  • Do not eat if you are vomiting. After the vomiting has stopped, slowly begin to eat again. Start with gelatin, clear broth, sports drinks, or water and increase as tolerated. Avoid caffeine-containing beverages and smoking.

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