Nausea is a queasiness or general sickness to your stomach during which you may or may not vomit. Vomiting can be a response to nausea, as well as your body’s effort to get rid of viruses, bacteria, and harmful substances.
Read on for ways to stop vomiting and nausea as well as signs for when it may be best to see a doctor for further treatment.
Nausea may be related to different causes and conditions. These may include but are not limited to:
While it’s possible to feel nauseous without throwing up, nausea may sometimes be a precursor to vomiting.
The causes of vomiting are often the same as the causes of your underlying nausea. This may include acute illnesses such as gastroenteritis or long-term concerns such as GERD.
Your brain — not your stomach — tells your body when to vomit. Throwing up is often your body’s way of removing a damaging substance, such as bacteria.
It’s also possible to feel queasy and not vomit. Although in some cases, nausea may go away after vomiting.
Vomiting in children is commonly caused by viral illnesses and doesn’t necessarily require medical treatment unless the vomiting is severe.
In general, you can help reduce vomiting by modifying your child’s diet. As a rule of thumb, you may want to avoid solid foods for up to 24 hours and instead offer:
- ice chips
- electrolyte solutions
A modified diet can also help prevent your child from becoming dehydrated. Eating solid foods may induce more vomiting, leading to further dehydration.
For this reason, a pediatrician may recommend a liquid diet for 12 to 24 hours. Talk with a doctor or pediatrician if your child is also vomiting up fluids.
Also, you should have your child lay on their side to minimize the chance of them inhaling vomit into their airways.
Medications and alternative treatments aren’t generally recommended for children without a doctor’s approval.
Further treatment for vomiting will depend on the underlying cause. Unless you know the exact cause of vomiting, you should avoid taking medications without talking with a doctor first.
Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as antiemetics may sometimes be used to stop upset stomach, nausea, and vomiting. OTC medications for nausea can include Pepto-Bismol and Kaopectate, which contain bismuth subsalicylate.
These medications help protect the stomach lining and reduce vomiting caused by food poisoning.
OTC antihistamines, or H1 blockers, such as dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and meclizine (Bonine, Travel-Ease) are other types of antiemetics that may help stop vomiting caused by motion sickness.
They work by blocking the H1 histamine receptors responsible for stimulating vomiting. Side effects of antihistamines may include:
- dry mouth
- blurred vision
Before taking any OTC medications for nausea and vomiting, consider the following:
- Only take the recommended dosage on the product label.
- Do not take more than one antiemetic medication at the same time, as they may share similar active ingredients.
- Do not give bismuth subsalicylate products to children under 12 years old.
- Do not give bismuth subsalicylate products to children or teens with the flu or chickenpox, as it can increase their risk for Reye’s syndrome.
- Ask a doctor or pharmacist about potential drug interactions if you take other OTC or prescription medications, such as blood thinners.
- Ask a doctor or pharmacist if antiemetic medications are safe if you have certain underlying conditions, such as heart disease, asthma, or thyroid disease.
Dry crackers like soda crackers or saltines are a tried-and-true remedy for nausea. It’s thought they help absorb stomach acids.
For morning sickness, try eating a few crackers before getting out of bed to help settle your stomach.
Avoid eating salty, spicy, or fatty foods that could further irritate your stomach.
It’s also important that you continue to drink enough fluids to help prevent dehydration as you start eating bland solid foods.
Take deep breaths by breathing air through your nose and into your lungs. Your abdomen should expand as you breathe in. Exhale slowly through your mouth or nose and relax your belly after each breath.
Repeat this several times. You can use the image below to help pace yourself.
Deep breathing may also help calm anxiety that may occur when you’re feeling sick.
Acupressure is a popular traditional Chinese medicine remedy that may also help alleviate feelings of nausea and subsequent vomiting. It uses pressure to stimulate certain points of the body to relieve symptoms.
Wrist acupressure may be preferred by people who may not want to eat or drink anything due to nausea.
Applying pressure to pressure point Neiguan (P-6), a spot on the palm side of the forearm near your wrist, may help relieve nausea and vomiting.
To massage this pressure point:
- Place three fingers across the wrist.
- Put your thumb under your index finger.
- Rub this point in a firm, circular motion for two to three minutes.
- Repeat on the other wrist.
If you’re vomiting a lot, it’s critical to drink plenty of fluids to help prevent dehydration, even if you vomit some of them back up. Sip the fluids slowly. Drinking too much when your stomach is upset may cause more vomiting.
Fluids that help keep you hydrated and may ease nausea can include:
- herbal or mint tea
You can also suck on ice chips or popsicles to stay hydrated.
If a doctor believes you’re dehydrated due to vomiting, they may provide you with intravenous (IV) fluids.
Ginger supplements have been one of the most widely studied remedies for nausea and vomiting.
The review also suggested that ginger’s active ingredients, gingerols and shogaols, can help speed up stomach emptying and reduce morning sickness.
Still, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, it’s best to check with a doctor first before using ginger or any other supplement.
You can try sipping a cup of warm ginger tea slowly when nausea strikes. Or, slowly eat a small piece of fresh ginger root or candied ginger.
You can also make fresh ginger tea by adding a teaspoon of freshly grated ginger root to one cup of boiling water. Steep to desired strength. You can strain the tea before drinking if you prefer.
Still, anecdotal evidence suggests it may be worth sipping a cup of fennel tea the next time nausea strikes.
To make fennel tea, add about a teaspoon of fennel seeds to one cup of boiling water. Steep to desired strength and strain before drinking.
Cloves have been used as a folk remedy for nausea and vomiting.
To make clove tea, add one cup of boiling water to a teaspoon or so of cloves. Steep to desired strength and strain before drinking.
Aromatherapy may help relieve nausea and vomiting, although studies on its effectiveness are mixed.
To practice aromatherapy, try deep breathing with an open essential oil bottle, an essential oil diffuser, or add a few drops to a cotton ball.
Scents that are believed to have an effect on nausea can include:
If you have asthma or another respiratory condition, ask your doctor before diffusing essential oils. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAI), using essential oils may increase breathing difficulties in some people.
Not all cases of nausea and vomiting require a visit to a doctor, especially if the symptoms are mild and temporary. However, you should call a doctor if:
- You or your child vomits for more than 24 hours.
- There’s blood in your vomit.
- You have signs of dehydration, such as infrequent urination, dark urine, and dry mouth.
- Vomiting comes and goes for more than a month.
- You’re losing weight from long-term nausea and vomiting.
When vomiting is an emergency
Sometimes vomiting can be a sign of an emergency situation. If you experience any of the following symptoms along with nausea and vomiting, have someone bring you to a hospital or contact local emergency medical services.
These symptoms can include:
- chest pain
- severe abdominal pain
- blurred vision
- dizziness or fainting
- high fever
- stiff neck
- cold, clammy, pale skin
- severe headache
- being unable to keep food or liquids down for 12 hours
Additionally, you should seek help right away if you think your symptoms are related to poisoning. Get help from the Poison Control Center online or call (800) 222-1222.
Acute nausea and vomiting can typically be treated at home. Vomiting due to the stomach flu or food poisoning may require medical attention, especially if you’ve been throwing up for more than one day.
Remember to drink enough fluids to avoid dehydration and to stick with a bland diet once you reintroduce solid foods.
If you’re concerned about persistent or recurring nausea or vomiting or any symptoms of dehydration, consider seeing a doctor for further treatment.
Depending on the underlying causes, a doctor may recommend medications as well as IV fluids to help treat dehydration.