Overview of Nausea

It is a common symptom that can happen due to many factors, including motion sickness, medication side effects, infections, pregnancy, anxiety, and other medical conditions. 

Prevalence of Nausea

Globally, nausea is a common symptom, with a point prevalence of about 12%. A study found that 37% of cancer patients experienced nausea. Specific populations may be more likely to experience nausea. 

For example, pregnant women commonly experience nausea, with up to 80% reporting the symptom during the first trimester of pregnancy. Motion sickness is also a common cause of nausea, with some estimates suggesting that up to 33% of people may experience motion sickness in certain situations.

Signs and Symptoms of Nausea

Some common symptoms of nausea include:

  • Feeling queasy or unsettled in the stomach
  • Increased salivation and sweating
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of appetite or reduced food intake
  • A general feeling of unease or discomfort

Nausea may occur with other symptoms depending on the underlying cause. For example, nausea associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may be accompanied by heartburn and acid reflux. Nausea associated with viral infections may be accompanied by fever, body aches, and diarrhea. If you experience frequent or severe nausea, it is essential to consult a general physician to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Types of Nausea

Nausea is a common symptom that can have various causes. However, there are no specific types of nausea per se, but rather different conditions or situations that can lead to feelings of nausea. Here are some examples:

  • Acute Nausea: It is a wave of sudden and intense nausea that can occur due to various factors, such as food poisoning, infections, medication side effects, motion sickness, or anxiety.
  • Chronic Nausea: persistent or recurrent nausea that lasts for weeks or months and can occur due to medical conditions such as gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), ulcers, or cancer.
  • Pregnancy-related Nausea: a common type of nausea experienced by many pregnant women during the first trimester, also known as morning sickness.
  • Chemotherapy-induced Nausea: a type of nausea that can happen due to chemotherapy treatment for cancer.
  • Migraine-associated Nausea: nausea that accompanies a migraine headache.
  • Anxiety-related Nausea: nausea due to anxiety, stress, or panic attacks.

Causes of Nausea

There are several causes of nausea, including:

  • Gastrointestinal conditions: Nausea is a common symptom of various gastrointestinal disorders, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, gastritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Viral infections: Many viral infections, such as the flu, norovirus, and rotavirus, can cause nausea.
  • Motion sickness: Travel by car, boat, or airplane can cause motion sickness, which leads to nausea.
  • Medications: Certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and pain relievers, can cause nausea as a side effect.
  • Pregnancy: Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of early pregnancy, also known as morning sickness.
  • Psychological factors: Anxiety, stress, and depression can cause nausea.
  • Inner ear disorders: Inner ear disorders, such as labyrinthitis and Meniere's disease, can cause nausea and dizziness.
  • Migraines: Nausea is a common symptom of migraines.

Risk Factors of Nausea

Some common risk factors for nausea include:

  • Digestive disorders: Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), peptic ulcer disease, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can all cause nausea as a symptom.
  • Pregnancy: Nausea is a common early pregnancy symptom, especially during the first trimester.
  • Motion sickness: Motion sickness occurs when there is a disconnect between what your eyes see and what your inner ear senses, causing dizziness, nausea, and vomiting.
  • Medications: Many medications can cause nausea as a side effect, including chemotherapy drugs, antibiotics, and opioids.
  • Infections: Certain infections, such as influenza, gastroenteritis, and viral hepatitis, can cause nausea as a symptom.
  • Anxiety and stress: High levels of stress and anxiety can trigger the release of certain hormones that can cause nausea.
  • Migraines: Nausea is a common symptom of migraines, especially in the prodromal and postdrome phases.
  • Alcohol and substance abuse: Excessive alcohol consumption and certain drugs can irritate the stomach lining, leading to nausea and vomiting.

It's essential to consult a healthcare provider if you're experiencing persistent nausea or vomiting, as it can be a more serious underlying condition.


While nausea itself is not typically dangerous, it can be associated with several complications, including:

  • Dehydration: Prolonged vomiting or nausea can lead to dehydration, which can cause a range of symptoms, including dry mouth, fatigue, and lightheadedness.
  • Malnutrition: If nausea prevents a person from eating or drinking for an extended period, it can lead to malnutrition and associated health problems.
  • Injuries: In severe cases, vomiting can lead to injuries such as tears in the esophagus or stomach lining and abdominal muscle strain.
  • Electrolyte imbalances: Frequent vomiting can lead to an imbalance in the body's electrolytes, leading to symptoms such as muscle weakness, confusion, and irregular heartbeat.
  • Psychological distress: Chronic or severe nausea can lead to anxiety, depression, and other psychological issues, further impacting a person's quality of life.

It's important to note that while nausea can be a symptom of many severe medical conditions, it is often a temporary issue that anyone can manage with appropriate treatment and lifestyle changes. If you experience persistent or severe nausea, consult a general physician to identify the underlying cause and develop a treatment plan.



There are several things you can do to prevent nausea:

  • Avoid triggers: Certain smells, foods, and medications can trigger nausea. Try to avoid these triggers as much as possible.
  • Eat small, frequent meals: Instead of eating large meals, try eating smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. It can help to prevent nausea and keep your blood sugar levels stable.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of fluids can help to prevent dehydration, which can often lead to nausea. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day.
  • Take deep breaths: Taking slow, deep breaths can help to calm your body and reduce nausea.
  • Ginger: Ginger is effective in reducing nausea. You can try drinking ginger tea or taking ginger supplements.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter medications like antihistamines and antiemetics can also help to prevent nausea. However, talk to your doctor before taking any medication.

If your nausea persists or is severe, consult a healthcare professional to see if it is a sign of an underlying medical condition.



Nausea is a symptom, not a disease, so there is no specific test or procedure to diagnose nausea. However, your doctor will likely perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and current symptoms to determine the underlying cause of your nausea. Some of the questions your doctor may ask you include the following:

  • When did nausea start?
  • Have you recently eaten something that could have caused nausea?
  • Do you have any other symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain?
  • Have you been exposed to any viruses or other illnesses recently?
  • Are you taking any medications that could be causing nausea?
  • Have you experienced any recent changes in your diet or lifestyle?

Based on your answers, your doctor may order further tests or procedures to determine the underlying cause of your nausea. These may include blood tests, imaging tests such as an ultrasound or CT scan, or endoscopic procedures to examine your digestive system.

Treatment of Nausea | When to Consult a Doctor

There are several ways to treat nausea, depending on the cause and severity of the symptoms. Here are some tips:

  • Stay hydrated: Sip on clear fluids such as water or sports drinks to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid solid food: If you're feeling nauseous, it's best to avoid solid foods until you feel better. Instead, try eating small amounts of bland foods such as crackers, toast, or rice.
  • Rest: Lie down and try to relax. Stress can exacerbate nausea, so taking a few deep breaths and focusing on relaxation techniques may help alleviate symptoms.
  • Medications: Over-the-counter medications such as antacids or anti-nausea drugs may help alleviate symptoms. Consult with a doctor or pharmacist before taking any medications to ensure they are safe and effective for your specific situation.
  • Acupressure: Some people get relief from nausea by applying pressure to a specific point on the wrist, known as the P6 point. It can be done using acupressure wristbands or by applying pressure with your fingers.

If your nausea persists or is severe, it's essential to seek medical attention and consult a general physician because it may be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.