Cancer Treatment: Coping With Nausea and Vomiting

Many patients fear that they will have nausea and vomiting while receiving chemotherapy. But new drugs have made these side effects far less common and, when they do occur, much less severe. These powerful antiemetic or antinausea drugs can prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting in most patients. Different drugs work for different people, and you may need more than one drug to get relief. Do not give up. Continue to work with your doctor and nurse to find the drug or drugs that work best for you. Also, be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you are very nauseated or have vomited for more than a day, or if your vomiting is so bad that you cannot keep liquids down.

What can I do if I have nausea and vomiting?

  • Drink liquids at least an hour before or after mealtime, instead of with your meals. Drink frequently and drink small amounts.


  • Eat and drink slowly.


  • Eat small meals throughout the day, instead of one, two, or three large meals.


  • Eat foods cold or at room temperature so you won't be bothered by strong smells.


  • Chew your food well for easier digestion.


  • If nausea is a problem in the morning, try eating dry foods like cereal, toast, or crackers before getting up. (Do not try this if you have mouth or throat sores or are troubled by a lack of saliva.)


  • Drink cool, clear, unsweetened fruit juices, such as apple or grape juice or light-colored sodas such as ginger ale that have lost their fizz and do not have caffeine.


  • Suck on mints, or tart candies. (Do not use tart candies if you have mouth or throat sores.)


  • Prepare and freeze meals in advance for days when you do not feel like cooking.


  • Wear loose-fitting clothes.


  • Breathe deeply and slowly when you feel nauseated.


  • Distract yourself by chatting with friends or family members, listening to music, or watching a movie or TV show.


  • Use relaxation techniques.


  • Try to avoid odors that bother you, such as cooking smells, smoke, or perfume.


  • Avoid sweet, fried, or fatty foods.


  • Rest but do not lie flat for at least 2 hours after you finish a meal.


  • Avoid eating for at least a few hours before treatment if nausea usually occurs during chemotherapy.


  • Eat a light meal before treatment.

For more information about cancer therapy side effects, and coping with them, please read the  "Chemotherapy and Cancer Treatment, Coping with Side Effects" article.

SOURCE: National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov)


Last Editorial Review: 11/11/2002