Nausea is when your stomach feels as if you might throw up, which can be a symptom of many different things. You may or may not end up vomiting.
Nausea can have many causes
Nausea is very common. When vomiting also happens, it is due in most cases to viral gastroenteritis, food poisoning, or from morning sickness in early pregnancy.
See your provider for persistent nausea
You can treat most cases of nausea at home with simple remedies. If your nausea isn’t going away and is accompanied by vomiting, your primary care provider can help.
Common causes of nausea
Nausea can be a common symptom of many conditions, including:
- Extreme anxiety or stress.
- Food poisoning.
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux disease.
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
- Intestinal obstruction.
- Motion sickness.
- Side effect of some medications, including cancer chemotherapy.
- Viral gastroenteritis (a viral infection of your intestines) and other infections.
Nausea is quite common during pregnancy, due to morning sickness in early pregnancy, or from hyperemesis gravidarum, a more serious condition that requires treatment.
When to see your primary care provider for nausea
Although nausea and vomiting are common, you should see your primary care provider for a physical exam and other tests if:
- Vomiting lasts more than 2 days for adults, 24 hours for children under age 2, or 12 hours for infants.
- Your nausea and vomiting has gone on for more than 1 month.
- You also have unexplained weight loss.
More serious symptoms
In rare cases, nausea and vomiting can be caused by a serious or even life-threatening problem.
You should contact your primary care provider immediately or go to an emergency room if you also have any of these symptoms:
- Blood in your vomit.
- Blurred vision.
- Chest pain (can be a sign of a heart attack).
- Rectal bleeding, or fecal material or odor in your vomit.
- Severe abdominal pain or cramping.
- Severe headache, fever and stiff neck.
- Signs of dehydration such as dry mouth, infrequent urination or dark urine, or dizziness.
- Vomiting for longer than 24 hours.
Treatment options to make nausea go away
Your primary care provider will work with you on the right treatment plan to get rid of nausea, and possibly to treat the cause.
It may include changes to your diet to feel better, such as:
- Avoiding spicy, fatty or salty foods, and instead eating bland foods.
- The BRAT diet: Eating only bananas, rice, applesauce and toast for a day or two.
- Eating smaller meals more often.
- For morning sickness, eating crackers before you get out of bed in the morning.
- Hydrating often. Cool water in small amounts is best, and some teas and oral rehydration solutions can help.
Your plan may also include other recommendations like:
- Avoiding strong odors and other triggers, such as food and cooking smells, perfume and smoke.
- Taking it easy and getting enough rest.
- Taking certain over-the-counter (OTC) medicines called antiemetics:
- Antihistamines. Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) or meclizine hydrochloride (Dramamine All Day Less Drowsy) prevent nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness.
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Kaopectate, Pepto-Bismol). Can also treat diarrhea.
- Prescription medications such as promethazine (Phenergan) or ondansetron (Zofran).
- Intravenous (IV) fluids for severe cases of vomiting to prevent dangerous dehydration.
National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI): National Library of Medicine. Nausea: a review of pathophysiology and therapeutics (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4699282/)
MedlinePlus: National Library of Medicine. Nausea and Vomiting (https://medlineplus.gov/nauseaandvomiting.html)