Nausea and vomiting

Nausea and vomiting

Nausea means feeling sick and vomiting means being sick (throwing up). These symptoms can be caused by certain cancers, some cancer treatments, or other health problems.

If your treatment or cancer is likely to cause nausea and vomiting, your doctor will give you anti-sickness medications. Make sure you take your anti-sickness medicine as prescribed, even if you don’t feel sick. It is a lot easier to prevent nausea and vomiting than to stop it once it starts.

If you have severe vomiting and can’t keep any liquids or medications down, you need medical attention.  

Use the contact numbers you have been given. If you can’t get hold of anyone, go to your nearest hospital emergency department for assessment.

Be prepared

Know what to expect

Not all treatments or cancers cause nausea and vomiting.  Ask your doctor or nurse whether you are likely to get these symptoms, and how to manage them.

Understand your anti-sickness medications

If you are likely to have nausea and vomiting, your doctor will prescribe anti-sickness (anti-emetic) medications for you. Make sure you know what these are and how to take them.

If you have questions about anti-sickness medications, you can speak to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.

Start a symptom diary

Keeping track of your symptoms can help you and your cancer care team to manage them better.

Talk to your doctor or nurse to see if there is a diary they recommend, or use the example provided on this page.

Know who to contact if you have a problem

Ask your doctor or nurse:

  • when you should call for help or advice
  • who you should contact
  • how to contact them (including at night or weekends).

Keep this information where you can easily find it.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Managing symptoms

Managing nausea and vomiting

The best way to prevent or control nausea and vomiting is to take your anti-sickness medications as you are told to, even when you don’t feel sick.

You can also try making changes to what you eat and drink. Some people find gentle exercise, or practices like meditation or yoga can help. 

Avoiding dehydration from vomiting

Vomiting causes your body to lose fluids. This can result in dehydration which is a serious problem. To keep your fluid levels up, have regular sips of water or other liquids.

Signs of dehydration include:

  • you feel light headed or dizzy or confused
  • your heart feels as if it is skipping or going very fast
  • you have a severe headache
  • you don’t pass as much as urine (wee) as usual, or it is a very dark colour.

Dehydration and confusion can happen quickly. Ask someone to stay with you if you are vomiting a lot, and get medical help urgently if you have signs of dehydration.

Severe vomiting

If you have severe vomiting and can’t keep any liquids or medications down, you need medical attention.  

Use the contact numbers you have been given. If you can’t get hold of anyone, go to your nearest hospital emergency department for assessment.

Severe nausea

This is not a medical emergency like severe vomiting, but it is still a problem. Feeling nauseous all the time can stop you eating and drinking properly. This means your body is not getting the energy it needs to cope with your cancer and treatment. You may also get dehydrated.

Talk to your doctor or nurse. They may change your anti-sickness medications or refer you to a dietitian for advice.

Treatment changes

Occasionally, if you have severe symptoms, your doctor may discuss delaying or changing your treatment. See our Treatment changes page for more information.

Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

My notes: