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Coping with Nausea and Vomiting From Chemotherapy
Nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy is a common worry. However, these side effects are less common and often less severe than most think. Chemotherapy treatments themselves have become better. There are also many effective treatment for side effects like nausea and vomiting.
You may feel sick a few hours after chemotherapy. Some side effect may be delayed until a few days after treatment. This is still related to treatment. It is important to let your care team know about any side effects you are having.
Antinausea and Antivomiting Drugs
There are several medicines available to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting. They may be given before chemotherapy if there is a higher risk of nausea from treatment. The medicine may be given as pill, injections, patches, or as a suppository.
Examples of medicines include:
- 5-hydroxytryptamine-3, dopamine, NK-1, and serotonin antagonists.
- Cannabinoids—May be an option if other methods fail. Cannabinoids are also used to stimulate your appetite.
Remember that medicine will work differently for different people. Finding the right combination for you can take some time.
Some drugs may not be covered under your current insurance plan. If not, make sure to discuss your options with your care team.
Tips for Coping
In addition to medicine, the following may help to reduce nausea and vomiting:
Food and drink tips:
- Eat and drink slowly.
- Drink small amounts throughout the day. Good choices include water, unsweetened fruit juices and light-colored sodas (no caffeine), such as ginger ale. Flat sodas may be better than those with bubbles.
- Try to eat smaller meals spread throughout the day, instead of 3 big meals. Examples of foods that you may be able to tolerate well include:
- Broiled or baked skinless chicken
- Cooked cereal, such as oatmeal
- Crackers, pretzels
- Pasta, white rice
- Skinless, boiled potatoes
- Chew your food well.
- Avoid sweet, fried, or fatty foods.
- Take a short rest after you eat. Avoid lying flat for at least 2 hours.
- Eat foods cold or at room temperature. It will decrease strong smells.
- If nausea is a problem in the morning, try eating dry foods. Examples include cereal, toast, or crackers.
- Prepare and freeze meals in advance. It will help for days when you do not feel like cooking. You can also ask friends or family to cook meals for you.
Other home care tips:
- Try to avoid other strong odors, like tobacco smoke.
- Wear loose comfortable clothes.
- If you are feeling nauseated, take deep breaths.
- Try to to get involved in enjoyable activities. Watch your favorite show or talk with friends.
- Try to take short walks outside. Light exercise will help clear your mind and boost your energy.
- Use relaxation techniques, like meditation.
American Cancer Society
National Cancer Institute
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Chemotherapy and you. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/publications/patient-education/chemotherapy-and-you.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2019.
Coping with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Cancer Care website. Available at: https://media.cancercare.org/publications/original/7-ccc%5Fnausea%5Fchemo.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2019.
Managing nausea and vomiting at home. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/nausea-and-vomiting/nausea-and-vomiting.html. Updated February 13, 2017. Accessed February 12, 2019.
Medications to prevent and treat nausea and vomiting. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/nausea-and-vomiting/nausea-and-vomiting-drugs.html. Updated February 13, 2017. Accessed February 12, 2019.
Toxicities of chemotherapeutic agents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115935/Toxicities-of-chemotherapeutic-agents. Updated October 23, 2017. Accessed February 12, 2019.
- Reviewer: Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD
- Review Date: 02/2019
- Update Date: 02/12/2019