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Gut punch: Common causes of nausea

Whatever you want to call it – queasiness, stomach upset, or just plain vile – nausea is definitely up there on the list of worst feelings in the world. 

It’s also one of the most common medical symptoms and can be caused by a variety of things, including illness, something you ate, or one too many spins on the Mad Tea Party ride.

When you understand what’s turning or churning your stomach, it can make it easier to ease nausea or nip it in the bud.


What are common causes of nausea?

Nausea is a general term used to describe a queasy sensation in your stomach that comes with the urge to vomit. It can also be accompanied by sweating, weakness, and increased salivation. 

Nausea isn’t a medical condition, but a symptom of something else. Common causes include:

  • Stomach bugs.
  • Foodborne illness.
  • Other illnesses that affect the whole body, including COVID, the flu, and strep throat.
  • Motion sickness.
  • Intense pain.
  • Certain smells or odors.
  • Overeating or eating too little.
  • Eating foods that are spicy or high in fat.
  • Food allergies.
  • Indigestion.
  • Stress.
  • Dehydration.
  • Migraine headaches.
  • Low blood sugar.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Certain medications, including antibiotics, and chemotherapy drugs.
  • Pregnancy, particularly in the early stages.
  • Hormonal changes during your period.
  • Vertigo.

Nausea usually isn’t a cause for concern. But in some cases, it may be an underlying symptom of something more serious, including:

  • Concussion.
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of brain tissue).
  • Intestinal blockage.
  • Meningitis.
  • Appendicitis.
  • Heart attack.


What can I do to ease my nausea?

For general nausea, there are several things you can try (or avoid) to ease or control your discomfort:

  • Drink clear and/or ice-cold drinks.
  • Avoid carbonated drinks, which can cause bloating and worsen nausea.
  • Opt for light, bland food, such as saltines or plain toast.
  • Avoid greasy, spicy, fatty, or sugary food.
  • Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Get some fresh air or sit in front of a fan.
  • Sit up straight. The fetal position may sound nice, but crunching your stomach can worsen nausea.
  • Breathe deeply. Inhale through your nose, hold for three seconds and slowly breathe out. Repeat until your nausea subsides.
  • Try some ginger. Studies show that ginger encourages digestion and aids in nausea that’s related to bloating, gas, pregnancy, and chemotherapy.
  • Sip lemon, chamomile, or peppermint tea. Their healing properties not only soothe nausea, but they can also help you relax.
  • Try over-the-counter medications. Pepto-Bismol may ease nausea caused by a stomach bug, indigestion, or another food-related illness. To prevent motion sickness, antihistamines, such as Dramamine or meclizine, can help keep motion sickness at bay. OTC nausea medicine is not recommended for kids. A health care clinician may prescribe medication for your child’s nausea in certain situations.


Should I try to throw up when I’m nauseous?

Nausea often makes you feel like you’re going to throw up, but that doesn’t mean you will or need to.

While vomiting may help reduce nausea in some instances, such as when food poisoning or alcohol are the culprits, the relief is likely to be short-lived. Your nausea may even worsen after vomiting. It can also lead to dehydration.

If you feel sick to your stomach, it’s best to let yourself vomit naturally. You should never try to make yourself throw up. Natural remedies or over-the-counter treatments are your best options to ease nausea.


When should I be concerned about nausea?

Most cases of nausea don’t require medical care and will pass on their own. But if you don’t feel better after a few days, or your nausea is getting worse or keeps coming back, it’s a good idea to get checked out.  

At Indigo Urgent Care, we treat most minor injuries and illnesses, including nausea. And you don’t have to wait to get relief. For in-person care, just walk into one of our convenient neighborhood locations or save yourself a spot online

If a trip to the clinic feels unbearable, we get it. Simply book a same-day or next-day Indigo Virtual Care appointment to meet face-to-face with an Indigo clinician from your favorite device. Virtual Care is available for adults and children in Washington state and Idaho.

In person and virtually, Indigo is here 8 am to 8 pm, every day.

Because nausea happens for a range of reasons, one of our friendly clinicians will evaluate your symptoms, go over your medical history, and recommend treatment or prescribe medication, if necessary. And if you need additional care, our Indigo team will streamline a referral to a specialist.

In severe cases, nausea could be a sign of a heart attack. If you or a loved one has nausea with the following symptoms, call 911 or seek emergency care right away:

  • Chest pain or discomfort.
  • Discomfort or pain in the arms or shoulders.
  • Weakness, lightheadedness, or faintness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, or back.
  • Severe headache.
  • Confusion.
  • Neck stiffness.
  • Breathing difficulties. 

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