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Nausea and Vomiting

How to Prevent Nausea and Vomiting From Chemotherapy or Surgery

November 10, 2023

Nausea and vomiting are two very common symptoms of people who go through chemotherapy or surgery. While it is unpleasant and inconvenient, there are treatment options to help alleviate these symptoms.

Woman applying pressure to P6 point located on the inner forearm to assist with nausea
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Many people may experience nausea and vomiting for a number of reasons, including medical conditions or treatments. Specifically, chemotherapy and surgical procedures are known to cause these uncomfortable side effects. In the United States, it is estimated that around 80% of people undergoing chemotherapy experience nausea and vomiting.

Left unmanaged, nausea and vomiting can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. While dealing with nausea and vomiting can be difficult, there are several potential options to help alleviate or prevent these symptoms. If you or a loved one experience nausea and vomiting from chemotherapy or surgery, read on to learn more about various ways to manage them, including medication and lifestyle changes.

Medications for Nausea and Vomiting

In many cases, a healthcare provider will recommend medications to help prevent or manage nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy or surgery. Different types of medications may be recommended depending on the cause and severity of the symptoms. Antiemetics, or anti-nausea medications, come in various forms, with each targeting specific receptors in the body responsible for triggering nausea and vomiting. Some commonly prescribed options include:

  • Serotonin (5-HT3) receptor antagonists: These drugs are often used to treat chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting as they block the action of serotonin on specific receptors in the brain and the gastrointestinal tract. Examples may include Zofran® (ondansetron), Anzemet® (dolasetron) and Aloxi® (palonosetron).
  • Dopamine antagonists: These medications work by blocking dopamine receptors in the vomiting center of the brain. Examples include Reglan® (metoclopramide), Compazine® (prochlorperazine) and Phenergan® (promethazine).
  • NK-1 receptor antagonists: These drugs target the neurokinin-1 (NK-1) receptors in the brain, working to block the binding of the substance P, a chemical involved in the vomiting reflex. Examples include Emend® (aprepitant) and Akynzeo® (netupitant/palonosetron).
  • Cannabinoids: Some forms of cannabinoids, such as Marinol® (dronabinol) and Cesamet® (nabilone), can be prescribed for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting when other antiemetics are unsuccessful.

In addition to prescription medications, over-the-counter medications like Antivert® (meclizine), Dramamine® (dimenhydrinate) and Benadryl® (diphenhydramine) may help improve nausea and vomiting. Always consult your healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment option.

Other Tips to Prevent Nausea and Vomiting

While medications may help treat nausea and vomiting, incorporating lifestyle changes may help maximize their effectiveness. For example, drinking cold water or electrolyte-rich fluids throughout the day may help ease nausea and vomiting, which can often lead to dehydration.

Dietary choices may also play a role in preventing nausea and vomiting. You might benefit from eating small, frequent meals as opposed to larger, infrequent meals, since smaller portions are easier to digest and less likely to cause discomfort. Although everyone's food preferences differ, it's generally helpful to stick to a bland diet of foods like crackers or plain bread initially. Here are some additional tips to prevent nausea and vomiting:

  • Avoid triggers: Identifying and avoiding personal triggers, such as specific smells or foods, can go a long way in preventing these symptoms.
  • Relaxation techniques: Practicing mindfulness, meditation or deep breathing exercises may help alleviate stress and anxiety, which can reduce feelings of nausea.
  • Acupressure: Applying pressure to specific points on the body, like the P6 point located on the inner forearm, has been shown to help some individuals manage nausea.
  • Distraction: Low-stress activities such as watching a movie, reading or listening to soft music may help keep the mind occupied and divert attention from feelings of nausea.
  • Posture: Maintain an upright posture, as lying down may put pressure on the stomach and worsen symptoms.

By incorporating these practical tips along with prescribed treatments, you or a loved one may be able to successfully manage nausea and vomiting.

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Inside Rx is Here to Help

Dealing with nausea and vomiting can be a tough challenge for many people. In addition, the cost of prescription medications may be a burden. Inside Rx offers a solution for those who need medication to manage nausea and vomiting but don’t want to struggle with the costs. With an Inside Rx savings card, you could save up to 80% on brand and generic prescription medications. The card can be used at nearly 60,000 participating pharmacies across the nation. You can instantly download the card, print it out or even download the mobile app to show the card at the pharmacy and save on medications for you and your entire family.