Nausea and vomiting are symptoms of many different health conditions, including early pregnancy, concussions and the stomach flu. Happening in both adults and children, there are many ways to relieve nausea. Drinking ice-cold beverages and eating light, bland foods can help.
You know the feeling. Maybe you ate something your stomach didn’t agree with. Or perhaps you’re going through cancer treatments. It could be one of the first signs that you’re pregnant. That distinct “sick to your stomach,” queasy feeling is a familiar one. Nausea is an uncomfortable feeling in the back of your throat or an uneasiness in your stomach. You may also feel dizzy, lightheaded or have difficulty swallowing. Nausea often goes along with the urge to vomit but doesn’t always lead to vomiting. Vomiting is the forcible emptying (“throwing up”) of stomach contents through your mouth. When you vomit, your stomach muscles squeeze together (contract), propelling your stomach’s contents up through your esophagus and out your mouth. Nausea and vomiting aren’t diseases but rather are symptoms of many different conditions, such as:
Both children and adults can experience nausea and vomiting. People who are undergoing cancer treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, have an increased risk of nausea and vomiting. Pregnant people in their first trimester may also experience nausea and vomiting, commonly referred to as “morning sickness.” Researchers estimate that 50% to 90% of pregnant people experience nausea, while 25% to 55% experience vomiting.
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Changes in your immune system and central nervous system can trigger your nausea and vomiting reflexes. Many different things can cause these changes. Some common nausea causes include:
Usually, vomiting is harmless, but it can be a sign of a more serious illness. Some examples of serious conditions that may bring on nausea or vomiting include:
What helps with nausea is different for every person, but there are several things you can try to control or relieve it. At-home nausea remedies may include:
Treatment for vomiting includes:
You can often treat vomiting with nausea medication. But you should check with your healthcare provider before using these treatments.
One concern with vomiting is dehydration. Adults have a lower risk of becoming dehydrated because they can usually notice the symptoms of dehydration (such as increased thirst and dry lips or mouth). Children have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated, especially if they have vomiting and diarrhea, because they may often be unable to tell an adult if they’re feeling dehydrated. Adults caring for sick children need to be aware of these visible signs of dehydration:
In infants, parents should look for decreased urination and a sunken fontanelle (soft spot on top of your baby’s head).
You may be able to prevent nausea by:
Resting after eating and keeping your head elevated about 12 inches above your feet helps reduce nausea.
If you feel nauseated when you wake up in the morning, eat some crackers before getting out of bed or eat a high-protein snack (lean meat or cheese) before going to bed. Drink liquids between (instead of during) meals, and drink at least six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day to prevent dehydration. Try to eat when you feel less nauseated.
You can sometimes prevent vomiting by drinking small amounts of clear, sweetened liquids such as soda, fruit juices (except orange and grapefruit — they’re too acidic) and ice pops. Rest either in a sitting position or in a propped lying position. Activity might make nausea worse and make you vomit.
To treat motion sickness in a car, seat your child so that they face the front windshield, if it’s safe to do so. Watching fast movement out the side windows can make nausea worse.
Limit snacks, and don’t serve sweet snacks with soda. Don’t let your kids eat and play at the same time. Encourage them to take a break during their snack time.
You should see your healthcare provider for nausea and vomiting if:
Take your infant or child younger than 6 years old to their healthcare provider if:
Take your child over 6 years old to their provider if:
Adults should see a healthcare provider if they’re vomiting for more than one day, if diarrhea and vomiting last more than 24 hours and if they have signs of moderate dehydration.
You should see a provider immediately if you have these signs or symptoms:
If you’re experiencing constant nausea, you may have a condition known as cyclic vomiting syndrome. With this condition, you can get sudden bouts of severe nausea, vomiting and exhaustion. See your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of cyclic vomiting syndrome, including repeated attacks of extreme nausea, along with retching and vomiting.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It’s not a fun feeling. Whether you’ve overindulged or you’re battling an infection, nausea and vomiting weren’t on your list of things to deal with today. That queasiness in your stomach may have knocked you down a peg. But thankfully, most cases of nausea and vomiting aren’t serious. With a little rest, some saltine crackers and a few sips of clear liquid, you should be back on your feet in no time.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/09/2023.
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