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What types of medications are available to treat nausea and vomiting?
Drugs used to treat nausea and vomiting are called antiemetics. Many types of antiemetics can decrease the severity of nausea, although most require a medical evaluation and prescription. Medicines available over-the-counter are mainly recommended for use in motion sickness and for cases of mild nausea.
- Meclizine hydrochloride (Bonine) is an antihistamine that is effective in the treatment of nausea, vomiting, and dizziness associated with motion sickness. Unless recommended by a physician, it should not be taken by people with lung diseases, glaucoma, or those who have difficulty urinating due to an enlarged prostate. Meclizine may cause drowsiness and should not be taken with other sedatives such as alcohol, tranquilizers, or sleeping pills. Due to drowsiness, people using meclizine should not drive or operate dangerous machinery. Meclizine is not recommended in children under 12 or in pregnant or nursing women unless recommended by a doctor.
- Dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) also is an antihistamine. Its use should be limited to motion sickness. It can cause drowsiness and should be avoided in the same situations as Meclizine. Several different formulations of dimenhydrinate are available, including a children's liquid, which should be used according to the directions under the direction of a physician. Dramamine Less Drowsy Formula contains meclizine, like Bonine, and may have fewer sedative side effects. Both meclizine and dimenhydrinate are recommended to be taken about an hour before travel to prevent motion sickness.
- Emetrol is an oral solution designed to soothe the stomach when nausea and vomiting are caused by a viral or bacterial infection or overeating. Emetrol contains sugar and phosphoric acid. Diabetics should not use Emetrol without medical supervision because of the concentrated sugar. According to its manufacturer, Emetrol should not be taken for more than five doses in one hour without consulting a physician. Consult a doctor before using this medicine for pregnant or nursing women and young children.
- Bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol) is a product containing bismuth subsalicylate, a chemical shown to be effective in relieving nausea and upset stomach. This remedy has a direct effect on the stomach lining and has no known serious side effects. It may cause darkening of the stool color and of the tongue. Pregnant or nursing women should consult their doctors before using bismuth subsalicylate since part of the active ingredient (salicylate) is chemically similar to aspirin, which may harm infants and the fetus. Patients allergic to aspirin or related drugs also should not use bismuth subsalicylate. Use under the direction of a physician if you take anticoagulants (blood thinners) or have diabetes or gout because the salicylate may further promote the anticoagulant effect.
Medically reviewed by a Board Certified Family Practice Physician
"Characteristics of antiemetic drugs"