Cancer: Home treatment for nausea or vomiting
Home treatment may be all that is needed to treat mild nausea caused by cancer or the side effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy. If you are taking chemotherapy, your doctor can give you medicines to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting. Be sure to tell your doctor if you continue to have problems after your treatment. Your doctor will adjust your medicines to prevent or control your symptoms.
Be sure to follow any instructions and take any medicines your health professional has given you to treat nausea or vomiting. You may also try the following home treatment tips:
- Watch for dehydration, and treat it early. Older adults and young children can quickly become dehydrated.
- If you need to treat a fever or belly pain, use acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, instead of aspirin or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen.
- Take a nonprescription antinausea medicine, such as meclizine (Antivert or Bonine) or dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), or an antihistamine, such as Benadryl. Don't give antihistamines to your child unless you've checked with the doctor first.
- Try acupressure:
- Place the tip of your right index finger on the underside of your left wrist, about 1.5 in. (4 cm) from your hand. Acupressure points are very small, so you may need to try this method more than one time.
- Apply moderate pressure for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Repeat as needed.
- Acupressure bands, which are available for motion sickness, may help reduce nausea.
- Suck on peppermint candy or chew a stick of peppermint gum. Peppermint may relax tight muscles in your stomach and help decrease the stomach contractions that may be causing your nausea.
- Try candied ginger or ginger tea.
If you are vomiting:
- Get some extra rest until you are feeling better.
- Sip a rehydration drink to restore lost fluids and nutrients.
- After vomiting has stopped for one hour, drink 1 fl oz (30 mL) of a clear liquid every 20 minutes for one hour. Clear liquids include apple or grape juice mixed to half strength with water, rehydration drinks, weak tea with sugar, clear broth, and gelatin dessert. Avoid orange juice, grapefruit juice, tomato juice, or lemonade. Avoid apple or grape juice if you also have diarrhea. Do not drink milk products, alcohol, or carbonated drinks such as sodas.
- If you do not have any more vomiting, increase the amount of fluid you drink to 8 fl oz (237 mL) during the second hour. If you are not vomiting after the second hour, make sure that you continue to drink enough to prevent dehydration.
- When you are feeling better, begin eating clear soups, mild foods, and liquids until all symptoms are gone for 12 to 48 hours. Gelatin dessert, dry toast, crackers, and cooked cereal are good choices. Try to stay away from strong food odors, which can make nausea worse.
The acid in vomit can erode dental enamel and cause tooth decay (cavities). Rinse your mouth with water after you vomit. Brush your teeth if you can.
Symptoms to watch for during home treatment
If one or more of the following symptoms occur during home treatment, contact your doctor:
- You have signs of dehydration.
- Vomiting has lasted longer than 24 hours, and you are not able to keep fluids down.
- You develop a stiff neck.
- Severe vomiting develops.
- Chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack develop.
- You have changes in mental alertness, such as extreme sleepiness, personality changes, confusion, irritability, or restlessness.
- You vomit blood, or your vomit looks like coffee grounds.
- Fever of 101°F (38.3°C) or higher occurs, or fever of 100°F (38°C) lasts longer than 12 hours.
- Belly pain develops or gets worse.
- Any vomiting lasts longer than 2 days.
- Your symptoms become more severe or more frequent.