Definition and Overview

Nausea is the feeling of dizziness and unease in the stomach that comes just before vomiting. It is not considered a disease in itself but is usually only a symptom caused by another medical condition. It is not easy to explain the exact feeling when one is overcome with nausea, but it is commonly characterized by a sensation of discomfort and uneasiness in the stomach accompanied by a general feeling of wanting to vomit.

Causes

There are different factors that can cause nausea, such as underlying medical conditions. Usually, the sensation occurs when there is a problem originating from the brain or gastrointestinal tract organs such as the esophagus, stomach, small intestine, liver, pancreas, and gallbladder. It can also be caused by certain substances such as alcohol, or by certain activities, such as traveling and seasickness. Sometimes, it is also experienced as a side effect of certain medications and substances. Nausea is also a common symptom of morning sickness associated with early pregnancy.

Thus, the actual cause of persistent nausea can come from a wide range of factors, but the specific factors that may affect a person are usually affected by a person’s age. For example, nausea in children is caused by a limited number of possibilities, such as overfeeding, coughing after drinking milk, fever, food poisoning, and an allergic reaction to milk, among others. Among adults, especially older individuals with a higher tendency for more diseases, the possibilities are greater.

Here is a list of the medical conditions and diseases that can cause nausea and vomiting:

  • Motion sickness
  • Pregnancy, especially in the early stages
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Food poisoning
  • Stomach flu
  • Overeating
  • Heart attack
  • Concussion
  • Brain tumor
  • Ulcer
  • Some forms of cancer
  • Bulimia
  • Gastroparesis
  • Ingestion of toxins
  • Emotional stress
  • Extreme fear or anxiety
  • Severe levels of pain
  • Vestibular neuritis
  • Migraine
  • Appendicitis
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Ear infection
  • Crohn’s Disease
  • Depression
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Meningitis
  • Alcoholism

Key Symptoms

Nausea is a sensation of discomfort made up of several types of unease occurring in several parts of the body. The overall feeling it causes is not considered as painful, but it causes a general feeling of being unwell, making it difficult to carry out normal activities. It is more like a sensation of discomfort and uneasiness that can be felt in areas such as the abdomen, chest, or throat. In most cases, the feeling of nausea includes the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain

Although nausea in itself is not harmful, it can be a sign of a serious condition that require immediate treatment. It is important to take into consideration the activities a person did before experiencing nausea. If there is no known source and if the nausea is persistent or recurrent, it is best not to ignore it.

Nausea also usually comes with vomiting, which means there is also a risk of dehydration. This risk is lower among adults, and is generally considered as a serious health risk among children, especially if the nausea is also accompanied by diarrhea. The symptoms of dehydration include dry lips, rapid breathing, a pulse that is faster than normal, and sunken eyes. Among infants, the soft spot also tends to look sunken.

Types of Treatments Available

Since nausea can be caused by a variety of factors, some serious and some not, it is important for people experiencing it to be very cautious in making the decision of whether to consult a doctor or not. In most circumstances, nausea can be treated with home remedies, as long as it is not caused by an accident, such as a blow to the head that might have caused a concussion. The following home treatments are proven to be effective minimizing the sensation of nausea:

  • Ginger ale or tea
  • Acupressure
  • Lemon
  • Cool compress
  • Peppermint

It is also helpful to do some stretching when nausea occurs with pain in the neck or back. Nausea usually occurs as a way of your body letting you know that there is discomfort in certain parts of the body, so doing some stretching exercises may help alleviate it. Dizziness that comes with nausea usually has something to do with circulation. When this is the case, it is helpful to lie down and rest for a short while; a good position to improve circulation is sitting against a wall, putting your knees up then putting your head in between your knees. It is also important to remember that nausea can sometimes be treated with as simple as relaxing yourself or getting some fresh air.

The feeling of nausea can also be relieved by making changes in your eating habits. A general feeling of discomfort in the stomach is one of the most common symptoms that come with nausea. To help alleviate the feeling of an upset stomach, it is commonly suggested to take the BRAT diet or a diet consisting of foods that are considered bland. The acronym BRAT stands for the words “Bananas”, “Rice”, “Applesauce”, and “Toast”. The main reason why the BRAT diet is recommended is because bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast are low in fiber and can therefore make the stool firmer. Bananas also contain a high amount of potassium, which makes it helpful in replacing the nutrients that the body has lost because of vomiting or diarrhea. Other foods such as crackers, potatoes, and soup can also be considered part of the BRAT diet.

Medicines for nausea are called antiemetics. Some of these drugs function to prevent vomiting by speeding up the food’s movement through the stomach, but there are also drugs that are used to prevent signals from being transmitted towards the brain’s vomiting center. The most common medicinal drugs for nausea are the following:

  • Cinnarizine
  • Cyclizine
  • Promethazine
  • Hyoscine
  • Droperidol
  • Perphenazine,
  • Prochlorperazine,
  • Trifluoperazine
  • Chlorpromazine
  • Metoclopramide
  • Domperidone
  • Dexamethasone
  • Granisetron
  • Ondansetron
  • Palonosetron
  • Aprepitant
  • Fosaprepitant
  • Nabilone

Who to See & Types of Treatment Available

Although there are many home remedies that are effective in relieving the feeling of nausea, there are still circumstances when you need to go to the doctor. There are many factors that may lead to nausea, and it is not always easy to figure out the main cause, which is why it is necessary to pay careful attention to how you feel. When the nausea is persistent and recurrent, it is better to have it checked out. And if the nausea is accompanied by some symptoms not commonly associated with the sensation itself, it is best to consult a doctor. These severe, uncommon symptoms include:

  • Chest pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting
  • Confusion
  • Cold and pale skin
  • High fever
  • Stick neck
  • Fecal odor in vomit
  • Dehydration
  • Vomit that contains blood
    References:

  • Niebyl, J., (2015). “Nausea and Vomiting in Pregnancy,” The New England Journal of Medicine.

  • Baines, M. (1987). “Nausea and Vomiting in the Patient with Advanced Cancer,” St. Christopher’s Hospice.
  • Matthews, A., DowswelL, T., Haas, D., Doyle, M., O’Mathuna, D. (2003). “Interventions for Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy,” Sao Paulo Medical Journal.
  • Meltzer, D. (2000). “Complementary Therapies for Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy,” Oxford Journals.
  • Bone, M., Wilkinson, D., Young, J., McNeil, J., Charlton, S., (2007). “Ginger root—a new antiemetic: the effect of ginger root on postoperative nausea and vomiting after major gynaecological surgery.”
  • Huxley, R. (2000). “Nausea and Vomiting in Early Pregnancy: Its role in Placental Development.”
  • Henzi, I., Sonderegger, J., Tramer, M., (2000). “Efficacy, dose-response, and adverse effects of droperidol for prevention of postoperative nausea and vomiting.” Canadian Journal of Anesthesia.
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