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:
- A buildup of saliva in your mouth
- Urge to vomit
Nausea and vomiting may occur separately or together. Common causes include:
- Gastroparesis (a condition in which the muscles of the stomach wall don’t function properly, interfering with digestion)
- General anesthesia
- Intestinal obstruction
- Morning sickness
- Motion sickness
- Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu)
- Vestibular neuritis
Other possible causes of nausea and vomiting include:
- Acute liver failure
- Alcohol use disorder
- Anorexia nervosa
- Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV)
- Brain tumor
- Bulimia nervosa
- Cannabis (marijuana) use
- Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
- Crohn’s disease
- Cyclic vomiting syndrome
- Depression (major depressive disorder)
- Diabetic ketoacidosis
- Ear infection (middle ear)
- Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
- Food allergy (for example, cow’s milk, soy or eggs)
- Food poisoning
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Hiatal hernia
- Hyperparathyroidism (overactive parathyroid)
- Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid)
- Hypoparathyroidism (underactive parathyroid)
- Intestinal ischemia
- Intestinal obstruction
- Intracranial hematoma
- Intussusception (in children)
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Medications (including aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, oral contraceptives, digitalis, narcotics and antibiotics)
- Meniere’s disease
- Pancreatic cancer
- Peptic ulcer
- Pseudotumor cerebri (idiopathic intracranial hypertension)
- Pyloric stenosis (in infants)
- Radiation therapy
- Severe pain
- 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