How to Manage Nausea and Vomiting
Your healthcare provider may give you medication to help prevent or control nausea and vomiting. If they do, they will tell you when to take the medication. This may be before, during, or after your chemotherapy or radiation.
Medications work differently for different people. If the medication you’re taking doesn’t control your nausea and vomiting, tell your healthcare provider. You may need to try a different medication or take more than 1 type of medication. Your healthcare provider will work with you to find the medication that works best for you.
If your healthcare provider gives you a prescription for medication to take at home, it’s important to follow their instructions for how to take it. They may tell you to take it on a regular schedule, even if you don’t feel nauseous. Or they may tell you to take it as soon as you start feeling nauseous. In either case, take it on time and don’t wait.
Follow guidelines for eating and drinking
Guidelines for drinking
- Drink at least 8 to 10 (8-ounce) glasses of liquids per day.
- Drink slowly and in small amounts.
- Don’t drink anything for at least 1 hour before and 1 hour after you eat.
- Try drinking cool, clear, unsweetened fruit juices such as grape juice or light-colored sodas that have lost their fizz.
- Choose drinks that don’t have caffeine. Caffeine can make you dehydrated.
Guidelines for eating
- Eat small, frequent meals. Eat your meals slowly.
- Chew your food well and sit upright for 2 hours after eating. This can help with digestion.
- Avoid eating foods that have a strong smell.
- If you’re bothered by strong smells, try eating your foods at room temperature or cold.
- Avoid eating foods that are fried, greasy, creamy, rich, or spicy.
- Try eating dry foods (such as crackers, cereal, or toast) before getting out of bed in the morning. This can prevent nausea or dry heaves.
- Suck on hard candy, such as mints, ginger, or tart candies.
- Eat a light meal before and after your chemotherapy treatment.
Be sure to brush your teeth and keep your mouth clean. Rinse out your mouth after vomiting.
If you have questions about eating or drinking, ask your healthcare provider to schedule an appointment with a dietitian for you. A dietitian can help you eat well during your treatment and make sure you’re getting the nutrients your body needs.
Use relaxation methods to manage stress
Examples of relaxation methods include:
- Listening to music
- Doing deep breathing exercises
- Doing yoga
- Applying a damp washcloth with or without peppermint oil to the back of your neck for 30 minutes
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR), a method similar to yoga that helps reduce tension in the body
- Exercising at home
Below are suggestions for managing your nausea through nutrition. Ask your doctor or nurse if you need an antiemetic (medication to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting).
|Foods To Try||Foods To Avoid|
|Starchy, low-fat, bland foods, such as: Dry toast, crackers, and bagels Angel food cake and vanilla wafers Sherbet, low-fat ice cream, or frozen yogurt Gelatin Canned, unsweetened fruit. Cold foods, such as: Cold proteins (such as skinless chicken, cheeses, and yogurts) Light pasta salads Popsicles Chilled clear liquids (such as nutritional supplements (Ensure Clear) and juices diluted with water)||High-fat, overly spicy, or overly sweet foods Fatty meats Fried foods (such as eggs and French fries) Soups with heavy cream Creamed vegetables High-fat, high-sugar pastries, doughnuts, and cookies Foods made with heavy spices (such as pepper or chili pepper, onion, hot sauce, or salad dressing) High-fat foods may stay in your stomach longer and are harder to digest. Many of these foods have strong odors or flavors that can cause nausea or make it worse.|
- Pay attention to the amount of food you eat. Eating too much can stress your stomach.
- Try ready-made foods (such as take-out foods or frozen dinners) to prevent nausea while you cook or make foods. If you need to, ask others to cook for you.
- If food odors, make you nauseated:
- Try cold foods (such as a sandwich or salad). These foods don’t smell as strong as hot foods.
- Leave the area while hot foods are cooking if you can.
- Have someone else plate your food for you.
- Let your food cool down for a few minutes before eating.
- Avoid places with strong odors.
- Eat small, frequent meals. This can stop you from getting too full and help you take in more food throughout the day.
- Drink most liquids between your meals. This will help you keep from feeling full too fast or feeling bloated.
- Eat slowly and chew your foods well. Avoid activity right after meals. These things help with digestion.
- Eat your meals in a pleasant setting. For example:
- Choose a relaxing place that has a comfortable temperature.
- Eat with friends or family. This may help distract you from your nausea.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing to stay comfortable.
- If you have nausea in the morning, keep crackers or dry toast next to your bed. Eat them before getting out of bed.
- Avoid eating your favorite foods right before or after treatments. If you’re often nauseous during or after treatments, you may start to dislike these foods.
If nausea is a lasting problem for you, it may be useful to keep a food diary. A food diary is a record of the foods you eat, the time you ate them, and the setting in which you ate them. Record any situations when you became nauseated. Discuss this with your doctor, nurse, or clinical dietitian nutritionist.
Many people have nausea and vomiting while they’re getting chemotherapy or radiation. This can be caused by:
- Chemotherapy medications that affect the areas of your brain that control nausea
- Chemotherapy medications that irritate the lining of your mouth, throat, stomach, or intestines
- Radiation therapy or the combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy
- The thought of having chemotherapy
You may have nausea and vomiting:
- Before your chemotherapy treatment
- Within 24 hours following your chemotherapy treatment or radiation treatment
- After 24 hours following your chemotherapy treatment or radiation treatment
- After you have taken medication to prevent it
It’s important to manage your nausea and vomiting so you can eat and drink. If you don’t eat or drink enough, your body won’t get the vitamins and nutrients it needs to.