Cancer: Home Treatment for Nausea or Vomiting
Home treatment may be all that is needed to treat mild nausea caused by cancer or the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If you are having chemotherapy, your doctor can give you medicines to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting. Be sure to tell your doctor if you continue to have problems after your treatment. Your doctor will adjust your medicines to prevent or control your symptoms.
You may also try the following home treatment tips:
- Take any antinausea medicines as your doctor recommends. If your doctor hasn't prescribed medicines for you, ask about taking a nonprescription antinausea medicine, such as:
- Meclizine (Antivert or Bonine).
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine).
- An antihistamine, such as Benadryl.
- Make sure you drink enough liquids so you don't get dehydrated. Take frequent small sips of water if a whole glass is too much.
- Make sure to eat enough food. Try 5 or 6 small meals instead of 3 bigger meals. And stay away from foods that make you feel sick, such as fried, spicy, sweet, or salty foods.
- Suck on peppermint candy, or chew a stick of peppermint gum. Peppermint may relax tight muscles in your stomach and help decrease the stomach contractions that may be causing your nausea.
- Try ginger, such as candied ginger or ginger tea. Real ginger—not ginger flavoring—helps to reduce nausea.
- Acupressure bands, which are available for motion sickness, may help reduce nausea.
If you are vomiting:
- Get some extra rest until you are feeling better.
- Sip a rehydration drink to restore lost fluids and nutrients.
- After vomiting has stopped for one hour, drink 1 fl oz (30 mL) of a clear liquid every 20 minutes for one hour. Clear liquids include apple or grape juice mixed to half strength with water, rehydration drinks, weak tea with sugar, clear broth, and gelatin dessert. Avoid orange juice, grapefruit juice, tomato juice, and lemonade. Avoid apple or grape juice if you also have diarrhea. Do not drink milk products, alcohol, or carbonated drinks such as sodas.
- If you do not have any more vomiting, increase the amount of fluid you drink to 8 fl oz (237 mL) during the second hour. If you are not vomiting after the second hour, make sure that you continue to drink enough to prevent dehydration.
- When you are feeling better, begin eating clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Gelatin dessert, dry toast, crackers, and cooked cereal are good choices. Try to stay away from strong food odors, which can make nausea worse.
The acid in vomit can erode dental enamel and cause tooth decay (cavities). Rinse your mouth with water after you vomit. Brush your teeth if you can.
On treatment days
Eating or drinking something before your treatment may help you feel better. Some people feel better if they don't eat or drink anything. Find out what works best for you.
Some people feel sick right before their treatments. For this kind of nausea, medicine doesn't seem to work well. But these things can help:
- Distract yourself, whether it is playing video games, reading, doing a crossword puzzle, or doing something else that you enjoy.
- Use relaxation techniques and guided imagery.
- Try other mind-body treatments that can help, like hypnosis or behavior modification.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
If one or more of the following symptoms occur during home treatment, contact your doctor:
- You have signs of dehydration.
- Vomiting has lasted longer than 24 hours, and you are not able to keep fluids down.
- You develop a stiff neck.
- Severe vomiting develops.
- Chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack develop.
- You have changes in mental alertness, such as extreme sleepiness, personality changes, confusion, irritability, or restlessness.
- You vomit blood, or your vomit looks like coffee grounds.
- Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher occurs, or fever of 100°F (38°C) lasts longer than 12 hours.
- Belly pain develops or gets worse.
- Any vomiting lasts longer than 2 days.
- Your symptoms become more severe or more frequent.
Additional information about preventing nausea and vomiting is provided by the National Cancer Institute at www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/nausea/Patient.
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Author: Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Jimmy Ruiz MD - Hematology Oncology