Managing Nausea and Vomiting at Home

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Anti-nausea and vomiting drugs (anti-emetics) are the main treatments for nausea and vomiting, but some non-drug treatments can also be used. These involve using your mind and body with the help of a qualified therapist.

Non-drug treatments may be used alone for mild nausea, and are often helpful for anticipatory nausea and vomiting. These methods can be used with anti-nausea and vomiting medicines for a person whose cancer treatment is likely to cause nausea and vomiting. If you’d like to try one or more of these methods, ask a member of your cancer care team if the methods are safe for you and to refer you to a therapist trained in these techniques.

These methods try to decrease nausea and vomiting by:

  • Helping you feel relaxed
  • Distracting you from what’s going on
  • Helping you feel in control
  • Making you feel less helpless

Below are some non-drug methods that have helped some people. Most of them have few or no side effects. Before using any of these treatments, check with your cancer care team to see if they are safe for you. Ask your cancer care team what non-drug treatments they may have available and which ones they can recommend.

Hypnosis

Hypnosis can be used to make behavior changes to control nausea and vomiting. It creates a state of intense attention, willingness, and readiness to accept an idea. It is done by a trained specialist.

Relaxation techniques

Relaxation techniques such as meditation (focusing the mind), breathing exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and relaxing the muscles) can help decrease nausea and vomiting.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback helps people reach a state of relaxation. It uses monitoring devices to help people gain conscious control over physical processes that are usually controlled automatically. Using biofeedback, a person learns to control a certain physical response of the body, such as nausea and vomiting. This is done by tuning in to the moment-to-moment body changes that are linked to the physical response. For example, biofeedback can be used to prevent skin temperature changes, such as those that often happen before nausea and vomiting starts. Biofeedback alone has not been found to work as well as for nausea and vomiting as the combination of biofeedback and progressive muscle relaxation.

Guided imagery

Guided imagery lets people mentally remove themselves from the treatment center and imagine that they are in a place that’s relaxing for them. The place can be a vacation spot, a room at home, or some other safe or pleasant place. While trying to imagine what they usually feel, hear, see, and taste in the pleasant place, some people can mentally block the nausea and vomiting.

Systematic desensitization

Systematic desensitization helps people learn how to imagine an anxiety-producing situation (such as nausea and vomiting) and reduce the anxiety related to the situation. In most cases, what a person can imagine without anxiety, they can then experience in the real world without anxiety.

Acupuncture or acupressure

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese technique in which very thin needles are put into the skin. There are a number of different acupuncture techniques, including some that use pressure rather than needles (acupressure). Acupuncture or acupressure can help with nausea.

Music therapy

Specially trained health professionals use music to help promote healing.. Music therapists may use different methods with each person, depending on that person’s needs and abilities. There’s some evidence that, when used with standard treatment, music therapy can help to reduce nausea and vomiting due to chemo.

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