Nausea is one of the most common symptoms of illness, usually creating the urge to vomit. As such, nausea and vomiting often occur together.

Nausea causes can range from conditions such as:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Peptic (stomach) ulcer
  • Food poisoning
  • Nausea resulting from medication (one example is chemotherapy)
  • Motion sickness
  • Nausea in pregnancy (commonly called morning sickness, this occurs in up to 90% of pregnancies)
  • Ingestion of toxins (including too much alcohol)
  • Anxiety and other psychological disorders, and much more.

As a result of these many possible causes, nausea is what is known as a non-specific symptom.

What are its symptoms?

Nausea’s associated symptoms are difficult to ignore. They include:

  • A feeling of queasiness or unease in the upper stomach
  • Need to vomit (often involuntary)
  • Excess salivation before vomiting (this occurs as the body’s way of attempting to neutralise the acidity of the stomach contents that are about to be brought up)

Seek medical assistance when nausea occurs in conjunction with chest pain, high fever, severe headache, fainting or confusion, blurred vision, severe abdominal pain or blood in the vomit.

A doctor’s visit is also necessary for a child who hasn’t been able to keep liquids down for eight hours or adult for 12 hours.

How is it diagnosed?

Usually being a symptom in and of itself, nausea is easily diagnosed but some investigation may be required to find out what is behind it. Your doctor may perform a physical examination and get an oral history from you – this will include asking questions about any other symptoms, triggers for the nausea, any medications you may be taking or foods you ingested that preceded the nausea.

Your doctor will then make a diagnosis and recommend a suitable course of treatment from here or, in some cases, additional tests may be required.

What are your treatment options?

The mainstay of nausea treatment is a class of drugs known as antiemetics. There are many types of antiemetic – some nausea medication is available over the counter from your Clicks Pharmacist and other types require a doctor’s prescription.

Ginger is considered one of the best natural remedies for nausea – try ginger tea, or even raw ginger.

When nausea occurs with vomiting, it is vital to keep drinking water so that dehydration does not set in. An oral electrolyte solution, available from the pharmacy, may be needed in cases of severe fluid loss.

Can it be prevented?

Nausea cannot be prevented in every case, especially if it is symptomatic of another condition. However, there are some steps you can take to try to prevent the uncomfortable sensation:

  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day, as opposed to three big meals
  • Keep well hydrated with water, especially when drinking alcohol
  • Avoid drinking liquid with meals
  • When recovering from a bout of nausea, stick to bland foods. You might also find that room temperature or cold food is better tolerated than hot food
  • Use over-the-counter anti-motion sickness drugs while travelling long distance, if you are prone to this type of nausea.
The accuracy of this information was checked and approved by physician Dr Thomas Blake in May 2015