Nausea is characterized as a feeling of discomfort and queasiness in the stomach, and it can occur with or without an urge to vomit. While nausea is not a disease itself, it is a recognized symptom of many medical conditions, and it can be a side effect of numerous medications.
Patients may have acute nausea that lasts for a few minutes or hours, or they might experience episodes of nausea on a long-term basis. Individuals who feel nauseous for more than a few days should see a healthcare provider to be properly assessed.
Doctors will typically begin with a health history, and patients should let their physician know about any headaches, lethargy, or vomiting they have experienced.
5 Most Common Causes of Nausea
The doctor may want to perform blood tests or imaging studies to determine the reasons for a patient’s nausea and subsequent treatment options. The conditions described below are most frequent causes of nausea.
1. Cold and Flu
Nausea can sometimes occur in cases of cold and flu. Both the common cold and the flu are viral infections that affect the upper respiratory system, and they have many of the same symptoms.
While the common cold is generally mild and appears gradually, the flu has a sudden onset with more intense, longer-lasting symptoms. Nausea is most likely to occur with the flu, and it rarely occurs with a cold.
Typical flu symptoms include a fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, and muscle aches, particularly in the back, legs, and arms. Flu patients might also notice a stuffy nose, loss of appetite, and fatigue.
As with the flu, patients who have a cold could notice fatigue, coughing, and muscle aches, too. Other cold symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose with green or yellow discharge, a fever of up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and watery eyes; these symptoms are uncommon in cases of flu.
A vaccine is available to prevent many strains of the flu, and patients can reduce their risk of both colds and flu by washing their hands regularly and not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
2. Motion Sickness
Motion sickness can develop when the motion a patient sees is different than the motion sensed by their inner ear. Many individuals get motion sickness while riding on roller coasters or other amusement park rides, and some might also experience it during travel by boat, airplane, train, or car.
Most cases of motion sickness begin with sweating, dizziness, and feelings of uneasiness, and headaches, fatigue, and pale skin might be present. As the condition progresses, many patients will experience nausea, and some individuals could vomit.
Children and pregnant women are most at risk of motion sickness, and a patient’s anxiety about travel might also increase the likelihood of developing it.
The condition most often occurs during travel by boat, and low ventilation and the inability to see out of a window could exacerbate symptoms. Normally, patients can self-treat this condition with over-the-counter medication.
However, before taking any of these medications, patients should be aware of the potential for side effects such as dry mouth, disorientation, and blurred vision.
Individuals taking other medicines and patients with underlying medical conditions should check with a doctor or pharmacist to avoid possible drug interactions or additional side effects.
Migraines are severe, recurring headaches that can be debilitating. Patients having a migraine frequently experience nausea with or without vomiting, and sensitivity to touch, light, smells, and sound is common.
Some migraine patients might notice mood swings, and the pain associated with migraines can occur on one or both sides of the head. Migraines may last for around four hours, and some patients might have migraines that persist for three days at a time.
Frequent yawning, food cravings, and mood changes may begin up to two days before a patient’s migraine, and patients could also notice an aura in advance of their migraine.
Generally, an aura lasts for twenty to sixty minutes and includes visual disturbances such as seeing lights or shapes or having blank spots in the visual field. Some individuals have reported hearing music or noises, and weakness in one side of the body has occurred.
Neurologists can usually diagnose migraines with a health history, physical examination, and neurological examination. In some cases, a CT or MRI scan may be recommended.
Treatment options for migraines include pain relievers and preventative medicines that can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibodies, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants are often used for migraine prevention.
4. Food Poisoning
Food poisoning is a condition that develops following exposure to bacteria or other contaminants in food. Listeria, campylobacter, and salmonella are all common contaminants linked to food poisoning, and contamination can occur at any stage of the food production and preparation process.
For example, some contaminants could be spread by food handlers who have an infection, and food could also become contaminated if it is left out for too long or not properly heated or chilled.
Symptoms of food poisoning can begin within a few hours of ingesting contaminated food, and some patients might not develop symptoms for more than a week after exposure.
In addition to nausea, individuals with food poisoning typically experience abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients should seek urgent medical attention if they have a fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or if they notice blurry vision, muscle weakness, or signs of dehydration.
While some cases of food poisoning resolve in a few days without treatment, doctors may prescribe intravenous fluids to treat dehydration, and antibiotics might be recommended for individuals with food poisoning caused by bacteria.
Vertigo is a sensation of whirling that occurs while a patient is completely still. It causes difficulties with balance, and individuals may become nauseous and dizzy. Ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, occurs in some instances too.
Vertigo is most often caused by issues with the inner ear, and some cases may be triggered by problems in certain areas of the brain.
Migraines, labyrinthitis (infection of the inner ear), and vestibular neuronitis (inflammation of the vestibular nerve) are all recognized causes of nausea, vertigo, and it may occasionally be triggered by certain head movements.
To determine the cause of this symptom, doctors will look in the patient’s ears and examine how their eyes move. Patients might be asked to have hearing tests, posturography, videonystagmography, or caloric testing, and CT or MRI scans of the brain may be beneficial as well.
To treat vertigo, doctors might choose to prescribe antihistamines or prochlorperazine for patients with mild cases, and vestibular rehabilitation training is often advised.