What Is Nausea? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention

Nausea is a symptom everyone dreads. You’ve almost certainly experienced that queasy feeling at one time or another — perhaps while reading a book in a moving vehicle, or maybe after eating something that didn’t agree with you.

Whatever the cause, “nausea” is a term that describes the uneasy feeling in your stomach that means you might have to vomit.

Though it’s not usually not serious, here’s what you need to know when you feel nauseated — and when you should see a doctor.

Signs and Symptoms of Nausea

Generally, when you are experiencing nausea, you feel sick to your stomach.

According to Stanford Health Care, other signs and symptoms of nausea include:

  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • A buildup of saliva in your mouth
  • Urge to vomit


Nausea and vomiting may occur separately or together. Common causes include:

  1. Chemotherapy
  2. Gastroparesis (a condition in which the muscles of the stomach wall don’t function properly, interfering with digestion)
  3. General anesthesia
  4. Intestinal obstruction
  5. Migraine
  6. Morning sickness
  7. Motion sickness
  8. Rotavirus
  9. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
  10. Vestibular neuritis

Other possible causes of nausea and vomiting include:

  1. Acute liver failure
  2. Alcohol use disorder
  3. Anaphylaxis
  4. Anorexia nervosa
  5. Appendicitis
  6. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
  7. Brain tumor
  8. Bulimia nervosa
  9. Cannabis (marijuana) use
  10. Cholecystitis
  11. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  12. Crohn’s disease
  13. Cyclic vomiting syndrome
  14. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  15. Diabetic ketoacidosis
  16. Dizziness
  17. Ear infection (middle ear)
  18. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
  19. Fever
  20. Food allergy (for example, cow’s milk, soy or eggs)
  21. Food poisoning
  22. Gallstones
  23. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  24. Generalized anxiety disorder
  25. Heart attack
  26. Heart failure
  27. Hepatitis
  28. Hiatal hernia
  29. Hydrocephalus
  30. Hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid)
  31. Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
  32. Hypoparathyroidism (underactive parathyroid)
  33. Intestinal ischemia
  34. Intestinal obstruction
  35. Intracranial hematoma
  36. Intussusception (in children)
  37. Irritable bowel syndrome
  38. Medications (including aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, oral contraceptives, digitalis, narcotics and antibiotics)
  39. Meniere’s disease
  40. Meningitis
  41. Pancreatic cancer
  42. Pancreatitis
  43. Peptic ulcer
  44. Pseudotumor cerebri (idiopathic intracranial hypertension)
  45. Pyloric stenosis (in infants)
  46. Radiation therapy
  47. Severe pain
  48. Toxic hepatitis

When do I need to see a health care provider for nausea and vomiting?

Nausea and vomiting are common. They are usually not serious. However, you should contact your health care provider immediately if you have:

  • A reason to think that your vomiting is from poisoning
  • Vomited for longer than 24 hours
  • Blood in the vomit
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe headache and stiff neck
  • Signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth, infrequent urination or dark urine

How is the cause of nausea and vomiting diagnosed?

Your health care provider will take your medical history, ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. The provider will look for signs of dehydration. You may have some tests, including blood and urine tests. Women may also have a pregnancy test.

What are the treatments for nausea and vomiting?

Treatments for nausea and vomiting depend on the cause. You may get treatment for the underlying problem. There are some medicines that can treatment nausea and vomiting. For severe cases of vomiting, you may need extra fluids through an IV (intravenous).

There are things that you can do to feel better:

  • Get enough fluids, to avoid dehydration. If you are having trouble keeping liquids down, drink small amounts of clear liquids often.
  • Eat bland foods; stay away from spicy, fatty, or salty foods
  • Eat smaller meals more often
  • Avoid strong smells, since they can sometimes trigger nausea and vomiting
  • If you are pregnant and have morning sickness, eat crackers before you get out of bed in the morning


12 responses to “What Is Nausea? Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention”

  1. […] when they are not. Often it feels like a spinning or swaying movement. This may be associated with nausea, vomiting, sweating, or difficulties walking. It is typically worse when the head is moved. […]

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