How to Deal with Nausea

By Frances Brown, PharmD Candidate 2022,
University of Florida, College of Pharmacy

June 20, 2022

How To Deal With Nausea

Struggling with nausea is challenging. Triggers and remedies vary widely and are sometimes hard to predict. If you have nausea and want to know more about it, this blog will review some of the basics for preventing and treating nausea.

Nausea can come from something you ate, motion sickness or vertigo, and even from strong feelings, like anxiety. All these sources of nausea are very different, but often occur together. Luckily, knowing what causes your nausea helps you choose the best, most effective way to treat it.

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An Upset Stomach

An upset stomach can be caused by many things, including foods and medicine. Your stomach has a natural reflex to protect you from rotten or poisonous foods and causes nausea and sometimes vomiting. If a food or medicine makes you feel sick, you can try these options to calm your stomach.

  • Ginger and peppermint are both natural treatments for nausea. They work by slowing stomach cramps.
  • Crackers, plain broth, and oatmeal are easy foods for an upset stomach to digest.
  • The BRAT diet: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. This is a special, bland diet made to keep upset stomachs calm. However, you should only use this short term because it may not offer enough healthy nutrients for recovery.
  • Avoid strong tasting, smelling, or acidic foods.

Bland foods and the BRAT diet are helpful for a little bit of nausea, but you should not stick to these foods for too long. If your nausea stops you from eating regular foods, you may not get enough calories or nutrients, and you should call your doctor.

If calming food is not enough, over-the-counter medicines can help.

  • Emetrol is a liquid which coats the walls of the stomach to slow cramps. It is safe for children 2 years and older.
  • Nauzene is a chewable tablet which works in a similar way. It is also safe for children 2 years and older.
  • Pepto-Bismol can be helpful, but it is less effective for nausea, and you should not give it to children under 12.

IMPORTANT: NEVER try to stop vomiting if you ate spoiled food! Get help IMMEDIATELY if you think you have food poisoning.

Vertigo, or Motion Sickness

Another cause of nausea is an upset sense of balance. When your body is moved around without your control, for example during a car or boat ride, your body senses that something is wrong. Ways to prevent motion sickness include sitting in the front seat of a car, looking out the window, or taking breaks during travel to sit on a still surface. However, this isn’t always possible. For times when you know you will feel motion sickness, like in a plane or on a boat, over-the-counter medicines can help.

  • Bonine (also called meclizine) is an oral tablet used for vertigo and motion sickness. It should not be used in children younger than 12 years old.
  • Dramamine (also called dimenhydrinate) is an oral tablet used for motion sickness during travel. It has doses safe for children as young as 2 years old.

These two medicines are very similar. Both can cause drowsiness, especially Dramamine. If you suffer from strong, long-lasting vertigo, talk to your doctor. Stronger types of these medicines are sold with a prescription. Find out which medicine is safest for you to use. You should not take any of these medicines before you drive or operate machinery because of the drowsiness they can cause.

Anxiety, Stress, or Anticipation

Nausea can come from strong feelings and emotions. Feelings like anxiety, stress, or anticipation set off alarm bells, and your body enters “fight or flight” mode. This can cause an upset stomach and nausea, among other symptoms.

Nausea from strong feelings calls for more holistic treatment. The most important step is to find the source of the feelings. Common triggers include:

  • Places or events.
  • Fear about the future.
  • Worry about things outside your control.

These are only a few causes. Triggers come in many forms and are different for different people. Take some time to think about where your bad feelings come from. To help cope with strong, bad emotions:

  • Practice deep breathing.
  • Center yourself.
  • Use your energy to picture good outcomes.
  • Think about how the process can go well, not just the end result.

Think about ways to make places or events less stressful for yourself.  Bring along something which makes you feel safer, more comfortable, or less stressed. Sometimes, eating ginger, peppermint, or a small amount of bland food can distract your stomach and calm it down.

Nausea from anxiety which lasts a long time can lead to poor nutrition and harm your health. There are many options to treat nausea caused by stress and anxiety. When behavior and lifestyle changes are not enough, prescription medicines might help. Talk to your doctor about what solutions are best for you.

 

Settling Nausea

Nausea is a common problem for lots of people. It can happen when we eat certain foods, take medicines, travel, or feel anxious. However, nausea should not get in the way of living a normal life. If you know where your nausea comes from, you may be able to treat it more effectively with gentle foods, natural remedies, and medicines. If you have nausea for a long time and nothing helps, be sure to talk to your pharmacist or doctor.

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Resources:

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/301659/

https://health.clevelandclinic.org/what-is-stress-nausea-and-how-to-deal-with-it/

https://www.winchesterhospital.org/health-library/article?id=193210

https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=a60660b2-c5db-45a0-885f-de93e655380d

https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=a8469128-592a-4682-82c7-4d2a6f97a998

https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=67006e82-870d-8d63-e053-2991aa0a02d1

https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=cf79ac74-017e-4fb4-85d3-4ea944080e89

https://dailymed.nlm.nih.gov/dailymed/drugInfo.cfm?setid=960a642b-ee7c-4e92-9b5f-930425682dac

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818021/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32985338/

 

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