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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center


Nausea & Vomiting

What to expect:

Nausea and vomiting may be caused by the following:

  • Certain chemotherapy drugs
  • Heartburn or reflux
  • Radiation therapy
  • Tumors in the brain
  • Infections
  • Anxiety or worry
  • Some medications such as pain pills
  • Severe constipation

Why is it important to keep nausea under control?

Nausea and vomiting that continues for too long causes the fluid and chemical balance of the body to be altered. Patients will stop drinking and eating. This causes dehydration. When patients are dehydrated, they feel light headed, weak, and may faint. Chemical imbalances may result in damage to the heart and kidneys.

What can help?

There are many strategies that can be tried to help with nausea.

  • Often people feel less nauseated in the mornings, if this is so for you, eat your main meal at the beginning of your day.
  • Try resting or lying down after eating. Activity slows down digestion and can cause discomfort.
  • Try not to leave your stomach empty. Eat something if possible. Eat small, frequent meals a day (6-8 a day).
  • Select foods that move through the stomach quickly like high carbohydrate foods. Crackers, toast, gelatin and juices are good choices.
  • Avoid fried, high fat and heavily spiced foods. Select unseasoned or lightly seasoned baked, broiled or steamed foods.
  • Eat slowly and chew food thoroughly.
  • Try to eat more food during times when you feel better and to avoid favorite foods during tie when you experience nausea. This will keep you from being “turned off” by foods you enjoy.
  • Often, foods with strong odors will cause you to feel nauseated. If so, stay out of the kitchen when these foods are being prepared, or leave the windows open to let odors out of the house.
  • Try eating cold or room temperature foods because they give off fewer odors.
  • Drink liquids throughout the day. (8-10 cups per day to avoid dehydration)
  • Sip fluids during meal time. Drinking large amounts of fluids during meals can cause a full bloated feeling.
  • Suck on hard candy, such as peppermint or lemon, if there is a bad taste in your mouth.
  • Resting after eating and keeping your head elevated about 12 inches above your feet helps reduce nausea.
  • Mild nausea may be relieved by acupressure. Sometime nausea may improve by pressing down hard with a thumb or finger (for a minute or two) on the groove between the two large tendons (two inches up from and on the inside of, your wrist) that run from the base of the palm up to the elbow.

Common medications used to help with nausea:

There are several medications used to control nausea. They may be used singly or in a combination.

  • Prochloroperazine (Compazine)
  • Droperidol (Droleptan, Inapsine)
  • Haloperidal (Haldol)
  • Metoclopramide (Reglan)
  • Ondansetron (Zofran)
  • Granisetron (Kytril)
  • Dolasetron (Anzemet)
  • Methylpredisone : corticosteroids
  • Dexamethasone (Decadron); corticosteroid
  • Dronabinol (Marinol)
  • Lorazepam (Ativan)
  • Midazolam (Versed)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Promethazine Hydrochloride (Phenergan) (antihistamine)

When to call the clinic:

Nausea and vomiting are caused by many different types of problems. It is therefore very important to contact your physician if you develop unexpected nausea and vomiting so that treatment recommendations can be made

Please call your health care provider when:

  • Nausea has kept you from eating or drinking.
  • Nausea is not relieved by medications.
  • Nausea is accompanied by severe vomiting.
  • Nausea is constantly present.
  • Nausea is worse.

Additional Resources/Handouts:

Nausea Medications Information Sheet

There are several medications used to control nausea. They may be used singly or in a combination.

Trade Name Other name Category Side Effects
Compazine Prochloroperazine Dopamine antagonist Sedation, low blood pressure, blurred vision, dry mouth, constipation, urine retention, mild photosensitivity
Inapsine Droperidol   ??
Haldol Haloperidal DA ??
Reglan Metoclopramide DA Restlessness, anxiety, ,drowsiness, fatigue
Zofran Ondansetron 5HT Headache, malaise, fatigue, dizziness, sedation, diarrhea, constipation, muscle pain
Kytril Granisetron 5HT Headache, asthenia, constipation, nausea
Anzemet Dolasetron 5HT Headache, arrhythmias, diarrhea
Methylpredisolone Medrol Corticosteroid Euphoria, insomnia, arrhythmias, peptic ulceration
Decadron Dexamethasone Corticosteroid Euphoria, insomnia, arrhythmias, peptic ulceration
Marinol Dronabinol CANNABINOIDS Dizziness, drowsiness, euphoria, ataxia, dry mouth, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain
Ativan Lorazepam Benzodiazepine Drowsiness, sedation
Xanax Alprazolam Benzodiazepine Drowsiness, light-headedness, depression, dry mouth, diarrhea, constipation
Versed Midazolam Benzodiazepine Oversedation, drowsiness, nausea, decreased respiratory rate, hiccups
Phenergan Promethazine Hydrochloride Antihistamine Sedation, drowsiness, dry mouth