Nausea is the sensation of having an urge to vomit (be sick). Vomiting is forcing the contents of the stomach up through the oesophagus and out of the mouth.
- Overwhelming sensation of wanting to vomit
What causes nausea?
Your body has a few main ways to respond to an ever-changing, wide variety of invaders and irritants. Sneezing ejects the intruders from the nose, coughing from the lungs and throat, diarrhoea from the intestines, and vomiting from the stomach.
Vomiting is caused by a downward contraction of the diaphragm muscle while at the same time your abdominal muscles tighten against a relaxed stomach to propel the contents up and out. It’s a bodily reflex triggered by an amazing variety of things including migraines, kidney stones, food poisoning, viral infection, motion sickness, allergy, pregnancy or even simply seeing someone else being sick. It’s your body’s way of trying to protect you from exposure to substances that might endanger your health.
How is nausea treated?
Short-term nausea and vomiting are generally harmless, but can indicate a more serious condition. Prolonged vomiting can lead to dehydration.
If the patient has become dehydrated they can be given rehydration drinks available without prescription. These get dissolved in water and replace salt, glucose and minerals. A pharmacist can advise on the dose for a child.
Bismuth subsalicylate is another common remedy for vomiting found in several over the counter stomach medications. It works by coating the stomach lining to soothe irritated tissues within the stomach and reduces inflammation.
Try taking in small amounts of clear fluids such as water, sports drinks and clear broths within the first 24 hours. One to two ounces of fluid at a time, every 10-15 minutes, may be all that the stomach will be able to tolerate. When you are able, introduce small portions of solid food but avoid milk products for the first 24-48 hours.
If the cause of the nausea is travel sickness, sitting down in a still environment can help.
Seek medical help if the nausea follows a head injury or lasts more than 24 hours in an adult. Consult a doctor if a child has been vomiting for several hours, accompanied by diarrhoea, a temperature, signs of dehydration or hasn’t urinated for six hours.
Seek emergency help if there is blood in the vomit, a very high temperature, severe headache, stiff neck, confusion, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, rapid breathing or rapid pulse.