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Nausea and Vomiting Due to Chemotherapy

This information will help you manage nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy treatment.

Chemotherapy can irritate the areas of your brain that control nausea and the lining of your mouth, throat, stomach, and intestines. Nausea and vomiting can also be caused by stress or just the thought of having chemotherapy. 

It is important to manage nausea because it can keep you from eating and drinking. When you don’t eat or drink enough, your body doesn’t get the vitamins and nutrients you need for energy and to heal.

Medication

If you experience nausea and vomiting during your chemotherapy treatment, your doctor will give you medication that can help prevent or control it. These medications may be used before, at the time of, or after your chemotherapy. If you’re given a prescription for medication to take at home, take it exactly as directed by your doctor or nurse. You may have been told to take it on a regular schedule, even if you are not feeling nauseous. Or, you may have been told to take it as soon as you feel nauseous. In either case, take it on time and don’t wait.

Medications work differently for different people. If the medication you are taking isn’t controlling your nausea and vomiting, tell your doctor or nurse. You may need to try a different medication or take more than one kind to feel better. Your doctor and nurse will work with you to find the medication that works best for you.

Medication Schedule
  • Dexamethasone (Decadron) 4 mg tablet

Take __________ tablets (a total of __________ mg), once per day, after breakfast

  • ___________________________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________________________

Eating and Drinking

  • Drink at least 8 to 10 (8-ounce) glasses of liquids per day. Drink slowly and in small amounts at least 1 hour before or after your mealtimes.
    • Try drinking cool, clear, unsweetened fruit juices or light-colored sodas that have lost their fizz.
    • Choose drinks that don’t have caffeine, which can make you dehydrated. 
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Avoid eating foods that give off an odor and are fried, greasy, creamy, rich, or spicy.
  • Eat your meals slowly and at room temperature or cold. This will help if you are bothered by strong smells. Odors from cooking or hot meals can make you nauseous.
  • Chew your food well and sit upright for 2 hours after eating. This can help with digestion.
  • Try eating dry foods, such as crackers, cereal, or toast before getting out of bed in the morning. This can prevent nausea or dry heaves.
  • Suck on hard candy, such as mints or tart candies.
  • Eat a light meal before your chemotherapy treatment.
  • Be sure to brush your teeth and keep your mouth clean. Rinse out your mouth after vomiting.
  • Ask your doctor or nurse to schedule an appointment for you with a dietitian. A dietitian can help you maintain your nutrition and eat well during your treatment.

Relaxation Methods

Practice relaxation methods, such as
  • Listening to music
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Applying a damp washcloth to your forehead or the back of your neck 

Complementary Therapies

  • Try acupressure, which is a healing practice that uses finger pressure to help relieve muscle tension and increase blood circulation. It can also help relieve nausea and vomiting. Ask your nurse for the fact card Acupressure for Nausea and Vomiting, which can teach you how to do acupressure on yourself.
  • Contact MSK's Integrative Medicine Service at (646) 888-0800 for information about complementary therapies (such as acupuncture, massage, and music therapy) to help you relax and control your nausea and vomiting.

Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You

  • Vomit over a 24-hour period
  • Take your medication and still feel nauseous
  • Have any questions or concerns