Nausea and vomiting

Feeling nauseous? Everyone gets nausea and vomits at least once in their lives. These unpleasant ailments generally aren’t serious, but you may need to get medical attention or treatment in certain cases. Find out more about nausea and vomiting.

What are nausea and vomiting?

Nausea and vomiting aren’t diseases but rather very common symptoms. Nausea may occur on its own or be accompanied by heaving (the effort to vomit), followed by vomiting itself. Vomiting is defined as the ejection of the contents of the stomach through the mouth. Other symptoms can include:

  • pain in the stomach or abdomen
  • excess saliva
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness

Possible vomiting and nausea causes

Many health conditions can cause nausea and vomiting:

  • Viral infections, such as gastroenteritis and hepatitis.
  • Bacterial infections, such as food poisoning and meningitis.
  • Bronchial secretions, especially in young children.
  • Head trauma.
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack).
  • Psychological disorders, such as stress, fear, anorexia or bulimia.
  • Migraines.
  • Fever.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Motion sickness.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Food intolerances.
  • Eating too much before bedtime.
  • Abusive alcohol intake.
  • The side effect of a medication (such as chemotherapy).

Some causes, such as motion sickness, aren't a big worry and are easy to identify. Others are more serious, and these include head trauma or myocardial infarction.

Nausea and vomiting treatment

Treatment for nausea and vomiting will vary depending on the cause of the nausea and vomiting and your health condition.

There are several effective medications to relieve nausea and vomiting. Some require a doctor’s prescription, while others are available over the counter. Your pharmacist can help you choose the right product for you.

Fresh ginger and ginger tablets can be good options for reducing nausea without causing drowsiness.

You can try these remedies to help relieve nausea and vomiting:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Stop eating solid foods and dairy products temporarily.
  • When you can tolerate solid foods, try eating toast, fruit purees, biscuits, crackers, chicken or vegetable broth, and lean meat (poultry).
  • Avoid foods that are high in fibre or fat, spicy foods, or foods with a strong smell or taste.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, sugary drinks or carbonated beverages (whether flattened or not).
  • Stay hydrated with a rehydration solution(lien vers le titre ci-dessous). Seniors and young children are more at risk of getting dehydrated when they have nausea or vomiting.

For nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness:

  • Avoid consuming too much food and alcohol 3 hours before you travel.
  • Avoid eating dairy products and foods that are high in fibre, fat or salt before you travel.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke and unpleasant odours during travel.
  • Avoid reading or watching videos, as these activities make motion sickness worse.
  • When travelling by car or bus, look at a fixed point outside or on the horizon. If possible, sit at the front of the vehicle so that you can see the horizon in front of you.
  • Keep the vehicle cool and well ventilated.
  • Rest your head on the headrest to keep it from moving around.
  • When on an airplane or boat, try to sit at the centre of the craft.

For nausea and vomiting related to pregnancy:

  • Eat several small meals or snacks at different times of the day to avoid having an empty stomach.
  • Avoid spicy, fatty or fried foods.
  • Eat at times during the day when your nausea is least severe.
  • Eat a small snack before getting out of bed in the morning.
  • Avoid strong food smells and spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.
  • Regularly drink small amounts of liquid between meals.
  • Iron supplements may aggravate your nausea and vomiting. Talk to your pharmacist if you think this may be your case. 

Some prescription medications can treat nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor . Bill 41 now allows pharmacists to prescribe Diclectin™, a drug that is effective at relieving nausea in early pregnancy. Specific criteria apply.

Rehydration solutions

These solutions compensate for lost water and mineral salts caused by vomiting and prevent dehydration. They are recommended for everyone, particularly people most at risk of dehydration, e.g., seniors and young children.

They are sold in pharmacies as commercial preparations (e.g., Gastrolyte™, Pedialyte™). A homemade solution can also do in a pinch if you can't get out to by one at a store.

Homemade rehydration solution recipe

  • 360 ml of unsweetened orange juice, without the pulp (and not juice crystals)
  • 600 ml of water boiled for 20 minutes and then cooled
  • ½ teaspoon of table salt

Mix all the ingredients together. Don’t change any ingredients or quantities. Store unused portions in the fridge and make a fresh solution each day.

For adults, the recommended amount is 30 ml to 90 ml (2 to 6 tablespoons) every 30 to 60 minutes up to a maximum of 2 to 3 litres in a 24-hour period. For children, the amount is determined by weight: 1 ml/kg every 5 minutes over a 4-hour period.

When to consult a doctor

You will need to see a doctor in the following cases:

  • You have nausea or vomiting after a fall or an accident (see a doctor immediately).
  • Your vomit contains blood, fecal matter, or liquid the colour of coffee.
  • You suspect the symptoms may be due to a heart problem.
  • The cause is unknown.
  • The nausea and vomiting are persistent or very severe.
  • You have a persistent fever.
  • In young children or seniors, vomiting more than 5 times in a day or vomiting that persists for over 24 hours.
  • In adults, if you vomit over 10 times in one day or if the frequency increases and symptoms persist for over 48 hours.
  • You have signs of dehydration:
    • dark urine or a low amount of urine
    • decreased tear production
    • thirst
    • weight loss
    • dry mouth, lips and skin
    • drowsiness or unusual fatigue
    • hollow eyes, cheeks or abdomen 
    • loss of skin elasticity 
    • in babies, a dry diaper for over 3 hours

 For more information, don’t hesitate to consult your pharmacist.

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