Nausea Medicine: Pharmacy Options & Natural Remedies

Clinical review: Flávia Costa
Pharmacist
May 2022

Nausea and vomiting medication is typically taken to control the intensity or frequency of the symptom, or to prevent its emergence. Most times, these medications act within the brain to control gastric emptying and reduce the sensation of nausea. 

These medications, like metoclopramide, odansetron or dimenhydrinate can be used for nausea related to flying, vomiting related to cancer treatment, food poisoning and infections. In some cases, medication can be used to treat vomiting in children. 

Any medication used for nausea or vomiting should be used under medical supervision. 

Medication options

Nausea and vomiting medication that can be recommended by the doctor includes: 

1. Antihistamines

Antihistamines can help to prevent nausea or vomiting when flying on a plane, as they block the action of histamine on the brain. This decreases the production of stomach acid, which contributes to nausea and vomiting. Learn about other causes of nausea.

Some medication recommendations for flying are dimenhydrinate, diphenhydramine and meclizine. These can be taken 30 to 60 minutes before the flight, and up to every 6 hours during the flight. These should be used cautiously, as they can cause drowsiness. You should avoid driving when taking these medications. 

In addition, antihistamines like diphenhydramine or dimenhydrinate can be administered through IVs in the hospital to prevent nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy treatments.

2. Gastroprokinetics

Gastroparesis medication, or medications that stimulate gastric emptying, also help with movement in the intestines. This allows for food to move out of the stomach quicker to help with digestion and prevent food from backing up into the esophagus. Examples include domperadone, metoclopramide and cisapride.  

These medications can be used for the prevention or treatment of nausea or vomiting caused by food poisoning, infections, and radiation or chemotherapy. It can also reduce side effects associated with other medication, like levodopa or bromocriptine used to treat Parkinson's. 

Gastroprokinetics should be used as prescribed by the doctor. They should not be used in people at risk for hemorrhage or with a history of obstruction or perforation in the stomach or intestines. 

In addition, gastroprokinetics can cause side effects like low blood pressure, agitation, nervousness, drowsiness, diarrhea, dry mouth, urinary retention, palpitations or cardiac arrhythmias.  

3. Serotonin receptor antagonists

Serotonin receptor antagonists are medications recommended for the prevention or treatment of nausea and vomiting, especially in patients who are post-operative, or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.  

These medications work by blocking the effect of serotonin, a neurotrandmister which acts on the gastrointestinal system and the brain, causing nausea and vomiting. 

Some examples include odansetron, palonosetron, granisetron and dolasetron.

4. Anticholinergics

Anticholinergics are medications that work by decreasing stomach contractions. They have antispasmodic properties, which decrease contractions or spasms in the digestive system and prevent nausea and vomiting. 

The most common anticholinergic is scopolamine, which can be used for air sickness or nausea and vomiting related to surgery.

Anticholinergics should only be used under medical guidance and should be not be used by children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or people with glaucoma. They can cause side effects like dry mouth, dizziness, drops in blood pressure, urinary retention or palpitations. 

Natural home remedies

Some home remedies for nausea or vomiting, like ginger tea or chamomile tea, contain antiemetic properties that can reduce nausea. These can also facilitate digestion and decrease stomach wall irritation. Natural remedies are safe to use as a complement to the treatment indicated by the doctor. Natural remedies are also recommended for the treatment of nausea during pregnancy.

Medication for children

Medications used to control vomiting in children should only be used if the vomiting is intense, or if a specific medication is prescribed. Common options are promethazine, metoclopramide and ondansetron. Dosing for these will depend on the child's age and weight. These medications should not be used in children under the age of 2. 

It is important to maintain the hydration status of children who are vomiting. You should encourage the child to drink plenty of fluids, like tea, water or coconut water to prevent dehydration. You can also give the child saline solutions to replenish any lost electrolytes - these can be made at home or purchased at the pharmacy. 

It is also important to consume a bland diet when experiencing episodes of vomiting. You should avoid fatty food and heavy meals. Good options are rice-based dishes and white meat like turkey or chicken, or cooked fish.

Vomiting during pregnancy 

Medication to treat vomiting during pregnancy should be avoided as they can affect fetal development. The obstetrician, however, can recommend medications like vitamin B6 supplements when vomiting is very frequent. This is the case with hyperemesis gravidum, which can compromise the nutritional status of the woman and lead to dehydration. 

It is important to avoid medications for vomiting when pregnant, unless they are prescribed by your obstetrician. 

Some ways you can relieve nausea and vomiting during pregnancy are: 

  • Avoiding large meals
  • Eating smaller amounts periodically every 2 to 3 hours 
  • Avoiding lying down after eating 
  • Avoiding spicy or fatty food
  • Avoiding intense odors, like cigarette smoke and coffee

Treatment for vomiting can involve the use of vitamin supplements, adequate hydration and replenishing electrolytes. 

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em May de 2022. Clinical review por Flávia Costa - Pharmacist, em May de 2022.

References

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Clinical review:
Flávia Costa
Pharmacist
Graduated in Pharmacy at Centro Universitário Newton Paiva, Brazil, in 2003. Master in Biomedical Sciences at UBI, Portugal.