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Key facts

  • Nausea is the feeling you get when you think you are about to vomit (be sick).
  • It can be caused by many different things, but it’s not usually a serious concern.
  • If you are nauseous, you may also vomit, feel dizzy and lose your appetite.
  • If your nausea doesn’t go away, see your doctor — they can help you manage your nausea.
  • If you are nauseous and vomiting, it is important to stay hydrated.

What is nausea?

Nausea is the feeling you get when you think you are going to vomit (are sick). It’s usually known as ‘feeling sick’. Nausea is not usually a sign of anything serious, and there are steps you can take to help you feel better.

Nausea isn’t an illness. It’s a symptom caused by something else.

What other symptoms are related to nausea?

You may feel nauseous before you vomit. This is when you throw up the contents of your stomach through your mouth.

You might also experience dry retching or dry heaving. This is when you heave as if you are going to vomit, but nothing leaves your stomach.

Nausea can prevent you from eating and drinking properly. This can cause other symptoms such as:

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes nausea?

Nausea can be caused by many different things.

Infection is a common cause of nausea, including:

Some other causes of nausea include:

  • motion sickness
  • some medicines and treatments, such as chemotherapy
  • abowel blockage
  • heartproblems

It’s also common to feel sick when you:

  • are in a lot of pain
  • have a migraine
  • have a head injury
  • have drunk too much alcohol
  • are experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety


If you suddenly feel nauseous after you’ve eaten, it could be caused by many different things, such as:

  • allergies or food intolerances
  • overeating

Feeling nauseous after eating could also be due to food poisoning. Food poisoning can take hours to days to make you feel sick.


If you are pregnant, you may experience nausea during the first trimester (first 12 weeks) of pregnancy. This is called morning sickness, even though it can happen at any time of day. Sometimes, you might also feel nauseous after having your baby.

When should I see my doctor?

You should see your doctor if:

  • your nausea doesn’t go away
  • you need help managing nausea when you are pregnant

Nausea can sometimes be a symptom of something more serious. Seek urgent medical attention if you also have symptoms such as:

  • chest pain
  • confusion
  • a high fever
  • a stiff neck
  • blurred vision
  • severe pain in your stomach
  • a bad headache

See a doctor if you are vomiting consistently for more than 24 hours.

If your nausea appears to be caused by eating a certain food, you can visit a dietitian. They can help diagnose and manage your nausea.

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ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is nausea diagnosed?

To diagnose nausea, your doctor will ask about any other symptoms you may have. They may organise tests to find the cause of your nausea.

How is nausea treated?

The best thing to do if you feel nauseous is to stay hydrated. Try to take small sips of cold, clear fluids such as:

  • water
  • herbal tea
  • lemonade and ginger ale
  • fruit juice
  • rehydration solutions

If your nausea makes you unable to drink, you can try sucking on icy poles or ice cubes.

Try not to skip meals, as an empty stomach can make the nausea worse. Eat small amounts more often. Some foods may be easier to eat and can help you feel better such as:

  • dry crackerbiscuits
  • ginger
  • salty chips
  • clear soup
  • noodles

Avoid fatty, spicy or very sweet foods as these can make your nausea worse.

Your doctor may prescribe medicine such as an antihistamine or an antiemetic (medicine to stop you vomiting).

If you are pregnant, your doctor will choose a medicine that is safe for you and your baby.

Can nausea be prevented?

If you feel nauseous often, try to avoid things that bring on your nausea. There are other things you can do to avoid nausea:

  • Try toeatsmallmealsattimeswhenyoudon’tfeelsickandavoidhaving anempty
  • You should try not to lie flat after eating a meal.
  • Becoming dehydrated will make you feel even more nauseous — take small sips of water
  • Try not to eat and drink at the same
  • Rest as much as you can — avoid standing up or getting out of bed too

If you get nauseous from motion sickness you can:

  • buy medicine from a pharmacist to prevent motion sickness
  • travel facing forward
  • avoidreadingorwatchingascreenwhenyou’reinavehicle
  • keep your eyes on the horizon

Complications of nausea

Nausea can cause vomiting and prevent you from eating and drinking. This can lead to dehydration and malnutrition.

These can lead to other problems such as kidney problems.

If you have severe dehydration may need to be given fluids in hospital through an intravenous (IV) drip.

Resources and support

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: August 2023

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