Nausea and Vomiting

Nausea is the sensation of feeling like you are about to vomit. Vomiting, oremesis, is the expelling of undigested food through the mouth.

Occasional nausea can have a number of causes, including overeating, drinkingtoo much alcohol, infection, and stress. Morning sickness is a type of nausea caused by pregnancy-related hormone changes. Some people experience motionsickness when riding in a car or traveling by plane or boat. Certain medicines, including cancer chemotherapy drugs also cause nausea.

Mild nausea can often be relieved by getting some fresh air or eating bland crackers. Vomiting relieves nausea right away, but can cause dehydration. Sipping clear juices, weak tea, and some sports drinks help replace lost fluid and minerals without irritating the stomach. After a period of nausea and vomiting, food should be reintroduced gradually, beginning with small amounts of dry, bland food like crackers and toast.

Various medications are available for nausea. 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.

Advocates of alternative treatments suggest biofeedback, acupressure and theuse of herbs to calm the stomach. Biofeedback uses exercise and deep relaxation to control nausea. Acupressure (applying pressure to specific areas of thebody) can be performed by wearing a special wristband or by applying firm pressure to the back of the jawbone; the webbing between the thumb and index finger; the top of the foot; the inside of the wrist; or the base of the rib cage.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) or lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) tea may relieve symptoms. Ginger (Zingiber officinale), another natural remedy, can be drunk as tea or taken as candy or powered capsules.

Persistent, unexplained, or recurring nausea and vomiting can be symptoms ofserious illness and should be checked by a doctor. It is important to call adoctor if nausea and vomiting:

  • Occur after eating rich or spoiled foodor taking a new medication
  • Is repeated or continues for 48 hours orlonger
  • Follows intense dizziness.
  • Is accompanied by yellowingof the skin and whites of the eyes; pain in the chest or lower abdomen; trouble swallowing or urinating;dehydration or extreme thirst; drowsiness or confusion; or a fruity breath odor.

A doctor should also be notified if vomiting is heavy and/or bloody, if the vomited material looks like 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 troublebreathing
  • Nausea, vomiting, and breathing problems occur after exposure to a known allergen.

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