Nausea is a symptom everyone dreads. You’ve almost certainly experienced that queasy feeling at one time or another — perhaps while reading a book in a moving vehicle, or maybe after eating something that didn't agree with you.

Whatever the cause, "nausea" is a term that describes the uneasy feeling in your stomach that means you might have to vomit, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Though it’s not usually not serious, here’s what you need to know when you feel nauseated — and when you should see a doctor.

Causes and Risk Factors of Nausea

Two of the most common causes of nausea and vomiting are stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis) and food poisoning, according to Stanford Health Care.
Per the Cleveland Clinic, other common causes of nausea include:
  • Early stages of pregnancy (morning sickness)
  • Seasickness and other forms of motion sickness
  • Severe pain
  • Being exposed to chemical toxins
  • Emotional stress, such as fear
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Indigestion
  • Particular smells or odors
A number of medications can also cause nausea, according to the Mayo Clinic.General anesthesia can also make you feel nauseated.

Risk Factors

If you are undergoing cancer treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy, you have an increased risk of nausea and vomiting, according to the Cleveland Clinic.More than half of pregnant women also experience nausea.

Duration of Nausea

How long nausea lasts depends on the cause.

Nausea and vomiting from stomach flu will usually start to get better within 24 hours, according to Stanford Health Care.Nausea and vomiting from food poisoning may take up to 48 hours to resolve.
Call your doctor if your nausea lasts for more than one week; you may also want to check for the possibility of pregnancy, suggests the Cleveland Clinic.Call your doctor if vomiting occurs with your nausea for longer than one day.

Complications of Nausea

If your nausea leads to or is accompanied by vomiting, you may become dehydrated, notes the Cleveland Clinic.

Children have a greater risk of becoming dehydrated, particularly when vomiting occurs with diarrhea, because they may not notice or be able to tell an adult that they are experiencing symptoms of dehydration, such as being thirsty. If you’re caring for a sick child, be on the lookout for these signs of dehydration:

  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Sunken eyes
  • Rapid breathing or pulse
  • In infants, less frequent urination and a sunken fontanel (soft spot on top of the baby's head)

If you experience the following symptoms along with nausea, call your doctor immediately:

  • Blood in vomit
  • Intense headache or stiff neck
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Reduced alertness
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vomiting with fever over 101 degrees F
  • Vomiting and diarrhea both occurring
  • Rapid breathing or pulse
  • Light-headedness

Related Conditions and Causes of Nausea

Nausea and vomiting are not diseases, and they often resolve on their own, but they can be symptoms of a number of diseases that vary in severity. According to an article published in American Family Physician, these include, but are not limited to:
  • GERD (reflux) and ulcers
  • Blocked intestine
  • Concussion or brain injury
  • Appendicitis
  • Migraine
  • Encephalitis
  • Meningitis
  • Other infections
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Sometimes, nausea and vomiting can be a sign of a more serious problem such as a heart attack; kidney or liver disorders; central nervous system disorders; brain tumors; and some types of cancer, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

Resources We Love

Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, is one of the largest and most respected hospitals in the United States and a leader in research, education, and health information. Their website offers information about the causes and treatment of nausea.

Mayo Clinic

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization that specializes in clinical practice, education, and research. Its website offers information about the causes and treatment of nausea.


MedlinePlus is a service of the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world's largest medical library, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It offers information about the causes and treatment and nausea.

Editorial Sources and Fact-Checking

  • Nausea & Vomiting. Cleveland Clinic. July 23, 2019.
  • Nausea and Vomiting. Stanford Health Care.
  • Nausea and Vomiting. Mayo Clinic. June 16, 2020.
  • Nausea and Vomiting. MedlinePlus. March 17, 2016.
  • Nausea. Harvard Health Publishing. January 2019.
  • Nausea and Acupressure. MedlinePlus. July 11, 2019.
  • Scorza K, Williams A, Phillips JD, Shaw J. Evaluation of Nausea and Vomiting. American Family Physician. July 1, 2007.


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