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Coping With Chemotherapy and Nausea

Nausea and vomiting are less common with chemotherapy today, thanks to newer cancer drugs and medicines to treat these side effects or prevent them. When they do happen, nausea and vomiting tend to be less severe and pass more quickly than in past years.

Different drugs work for different people, and you may need more than one drug to get relief. Be sure to tell your doctor or nurse if you feel very nauseated, have vomited for more than a day, or if the vomiting is so bad that you cannot keep liquids down. You could become dehydrated. Dehydration can cause serious problems if it is not treated.

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What Should You Do if You Feel Nauseous?

  • Instead of eating three large meals every day, eat small meals, and eat more often. Nausea is often worse if your stomach is empty.
  • Eat slowly, and chew your food completely.
  • Eat foods that are cold or at room temperature. The smell of hot or warm foods may nauseate you more.
  • Avoid spicy foods and fatty foods, including rich and creamy sauces. They're hard to digest.
  • Rest after eating, but don’t lie down. Sit up, keeping your head higher than your feet.
  • If you feel nauseated when you first wake up, keep a box of crackers on your nightstand and eat a few before getting out of bed. Or try eating a high-protein snack such as lean meat or cheese before going to bed. (Protein stays in your stomach longer than other foods.)
  • Instead of drinking beverages with your meals, drink beverages and other fluids between meals.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Choose cold beverages such as water, flat soda, or flavored drink mixes. You can also suck on ice cubes and eat Popsicles to stay hydrated.
  • Try to eat more food at a time of day when you feel less nauseous.
  • Take your anti-nausea medicine at the times prescribed.
  • Avoid foods that cause gas (like vegetables, beans, and soda), because it can make nausea worse.
  • Before each treatment session, tell your health care team if you've been feeling nauseated. Contact your doctor if your vomiting is severe or keeps coming back and prevents you from keeping anything down.

Can Nausea or Vomiting Harm my Health?

Your body can lose a lot of water and nutrients from repeated vomiting. If you vomit more than three times a day and you don't drink enough fluids, you could become dehydrated.

Call your doctor if you are vomiting and have any of these signs of dehydration:

  • Dark urine
  • Small amount of urine
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness when standing up 
  • Flushed, dry skin
  • Coated tongue
  • Irritability and confusion

Also, your cancer drugs can’t work if you’ve thrown them up. If vomiting continues, your cancer treatment may be stopped temporarily. You may also be given fluids through an IV to help your body regain the nutrients it needs for energy.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Angela Jain on April 14, 2014

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