Nausea and vomiting

A child can have nausea with or without vomiting. Be sure to tell the doctor or nurse if your child feels nauseated or is vomiting. If it’s caused by chemo, nausea can happen on the day the child gets treatment and can last a few days, depending on which drugs he gets. Radiation treatment to the belly, chest, brain, or pelvis can cause nausea that lasts for several hours. Nausea and vomiting can have other causes, too.

There are medicines that can control these problems very well. These medicines should be taken on a regular schedule – around the clock – as prescribed by the doctor. And if a certain medicine does not work, the doctor or nurse should be able to give you another one that might. It may take a few tries to find the medicines that work best for your child.

If your child has nausea and vomiting, here are some things you can do:

  • If the child is vomiting, encourage him to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Have him sip water, juices, sports drinks, fruit drinks, and other clear calorie-containing liquids throughout the day. Clear, cool liquids are usually better than very hot or icy liquids. Gelatin and popsicles are also good ways to get fluids in your child.
  • When vomiting has stopped, encourage your child to eat easy-to-digest foods, such as clear liquids, crackers, bread sticks, gelatin, dry cereal, and plain toast.
  • Do not give him foods that have a strong odor.
  • Offer cool foods instead of hot or spicy foods.
  • Don’t give him foods that are overly sweet, greasy, fried, or spicy, such as rich desserts and french fries.
  • If your child needs to rest, have him sit up or recline with his head raised for at least an hour after eating.
  • Try bland, soft, easy-to-digest foods on scheduled treatment days. Foods such as Cream of Wheat® and chicken noodle soup with saltines may be easier to keep down than heavy meals.
  • Avoid eating in a room that is warm, or that has cooking odors or other smells. Cook outside on the grill or use boiling bags to reduce cooking odors.
  • Help your child use a mouth rinse before and after meals.
  • Older children can try sucking on hard candy such as peppermints or lemon drops if there is a bad taste in their mouth.
  • After vomiting, have the child rinse his mouth and wait half an hour before trying to sip clear liquids or flavored ice.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Revised: June 30, 2014

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