Nausea and Vomiting

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Any of these symptoms can place your child at risk for dehydration (loss of fluids in the body).

Medications to help decrease nausea and vomiting are usually given before chemotherapy or radiation. The type and amount of anti-nausea medicine will be based on your child’s treatment plan and reaction to the treatment. It is important to let your healthcare provider know if your child has nausea or vomiting at home after chemotherapy, so additional medicine or other types of treatment can be used.

Some ways to help decrease nausea and vomiting include:
  • Eat small meals or snacks.
  • Eat foods that are easy to digest (crackers, rice, gelatin).
  • Sip cool clear liquids.
  • Do not eat fried, spicy or very rich foods.
  • Eat in a room that is free from cooking or other smells.
  • Rinse your child’s mouth after vomiting.
Nutrition’s Role:
  • Avoid offering overly sweet or greasy foods, hot and spicy foods, and foods with strong odors.
  • Offer small amounts of food; it can help to use smaller plates and bowls to avoid overwhelming the child.
  • Discourage drinking with meals. Instead, offer liquids 20-30 minutes before or after meals.
  • Encourage your child to eat and drink slowly. Avoid forcing past his or her point of tolerance.
  • Do not offer favorite foods when your child is feeling nauseous. This can "turn off" the child to those foods if they become associated with a feeling of nausea.
  • Avoid giving food for one to two hours before treatment if nausea occurs during radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
  • Offer dry crackers, cereal, or toast.
  • Clear, cool liquids are refreshing.
  • Serve meals and snacks in well-ventilated rooms, since the cooking smells can cause nausea. Cold foods are less aromatic than hot foods and may be better tolerated. Use an exhaust fan in the kitchen when cooking to eliminate odors.
  • Avoid taking the lid off of hospital trays in front of the child, as even these odors can be nauseating. Remove the lid outside of the room, and take only the items into the room that the child wants.
  • Breakfast foods are often tolerated best, and can be eaten at any time of the day.
  • Dress the child in (or encourage him or her to wear) loose-fitting clothes.
  • If nausea and vomiting is severe, try to encourage the child to drink at least some fluids so he or she does not become dehydrated. If the problem continues, call the child’s physician.
Ask your physician about medications that can be used to help control these symptoms, called antiemetics.