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Coping with Nausea and Vomiting From Chemotherapy

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Tips for Coping

Many patients fear that they will have nausea and vomiting while receiving chemotherapy. But, these side effects are less common and often less severe than commonly thought. Effective anti-nausea drugs can prevent or lessen nausea and vomiting in most patients.

It is important that you tell your doctor or nurse if you do have these symptoms, especially if the vomiting lasts more than a day or if you cannot keep liquids down. You may feel sick a few hours after chemotherapy. Some people also have delayed side effects, feeling nauseous and vomiting a few days after treatment. This is still related to treatment, though, so be sure to tell your healthcare team.

Also remember that different drugs work for different people. You may need more than one drug to get relief. Do not give up. Continue to work with your team to find the drug or drugs that work best for you.

Tips for Coping

In addition to taking your medicine, here are some steps that you can take to reduce nausea and vomiting:

  • Food and drink tips:
    • Eat and drink slowly.
    • Drink small amounts throughout the day. Good choices include cool, clear, water, unsweetened fruit juices (eg, apple or grape juice) and light-colored, decaffeinated sodas (eg, ginger ale) that have lost their fizz.
    • Try to eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day, instead of three big meals. Examples of foods that you may be able to tolerate well include: skinless chicken (broiled or baked), cooked cereal (eg, Cream of Wheat, oatmeal), crackers, pretzels, pasta, white rice, and boiled potatoes (without skins).
    • Chew your food well.
    • Avoid sweet, fried, or fatty foods.
    • After you finish a meal, rest. But, do not lie flat for at least two hours after eating.
    • Eat foods cold or at room temperature so you will not be bothered by strong smells.
    • If nausea is a problem in the morning, try eating dry foods (eg, cereal, toast, or crackers).
    • Prepare and freeze meals in advance 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:
    • In addition to cooking smells, try to avoid other strong odors, like tobacco smoke.
    • Wear comfortable clothes.
    • If you are feeling nauseated, take deep breaths.
    • Try to to get involved in enjoyable activities, like watching your favorite show or talking with friends.
    • Use relaxation techniques, like meditation.

RESOURCES:

American Cancer Society

http://www.cancer.org/

National Cancer Institute

http://www.cancer.gov/

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cancer Society

http://www.cancer.ca/

References:

Coping with nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy. Cancer Care website. Available at: http://www.cancercare.org/pdf/booklets/ccc_nausea_and_vomiting.pdf. Accessed June 21, 2012.

Managing chemotherapy side effects. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/chemo-side-effects/nausea. Accessed June 21, 2012.

Nausea and vomiting. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/TreatmentTypes/Chemotherapy/UnderstandingChemotherapyAGuideforPatientsandFamilies/understanding-chemotherapy-common-side-effects-nausea-and-vomiting. Updated March 17, 2011. Accessed June 21, 2012.

Last reviewed June 2012 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.