What is Chemo Nausea?
Nausea is a common side effect of chemotherapy (treatment of cancer), but today this side effect/symptom has lost its severity due to the advancement of the cancer drugs. These latest cancer medicines prevent nausea and other similar symptoms from developing in the patient. However, still there are many patients who suffer from some chemo nausea and vomiting tendencies. But the nausea from chemo would be less severe if certain steps are taken.
Different chemo drugs work differently and often a patient needs more than one chemo drug when seeking relief from cancer. Right after taking the chemo drugs, if there is nausea or vomiting tendency, then the doctor and nurse should be consulted for alternate cancer drugs to stop chemo nausea. When a patient vomits more than twice, and especially if the patient finds it difficult to consume or keep down food or even liquid and when vomiting becomes persistent and the body becomes dehydrated, then it can cause serious problems and newer problems and health issues; in such cases, one should immediately seek help.
Ways to Deal with Chemo Nausea
- Right after chemo if there are nausea symptoms, it is better to avoid large meals; however, the patient's stomach should not be kept empty. So it is recommended to take small meals intermittently.
- One effective way to avoid or prevent chemo nausea is that patient should eat slowly and chew the food properly and completely. This helps in easy digestion and in avoiding chemo nausea.
- Food should not be eaten too hot or too cold, and the food consumed should be at room temperature. It often happens that the smell of the food when it is too hot or too cold triggers chemo nausea.
- It is better to avoid fatty or spicy foods, which includes creamy and rich sauces. They are quite challenging to digest and can trigger chemo nausea.
- It is better to take some rest after a meal, but lying down completely is not recommended as occasional burps triggers nauseous feelings. The head should kept higher than the feet when lying to prevent chemo nausea.
- It is better to consume high protein snacks right after waking up; however, when going to bed, it is better to consume lean meat or cheese as they are easy to digest.
- Protein is something that stays in stomach for longer hours, so it is better to consume protein more than fats or carbohydrate. This is a useful way to deal with chemo nausea.
- Another way to deal with chemo nauseas is avoiding drinking of fluids and beverages with meals and instead drink fluids before or after meals and not in between meals.
- It is better to drink fluid in profuse measure. Fluids such as water, flavored drinks and flat soda help in restricting chemo nausea. To stay hydrated and to deal with chemo nausea, one can always go for ice cubes and Popsicles.
- When there is dizziness or uneasiness, it is better to avoid food, but when the patient is feeling less nauseous, it is recommended to eat small portion of food to keep stomach filled and to prevent chemo nausea.
- One important way of dealing with chemo nausea is taking anti-nausea medicines prescribed by the oncologist. Patient should not skip anti-nausea medicines during chemotherapy and complete the course as advised by the doctor.
- Right after chemo, it is better to avoid foods that produce gas (high fat junk food, beans, and soda), because such type of food items make chemo nausea worse.
- When the patient is vomiting due to chemotherapy, the cancer drugs could also be thrown up. If the vomiting is persistent, then the oncologist may temporarily stop the patient's cancer treatment. Sometimes, IV is also needed to instill fluid in the body to replace the fluids and essential nutrients that are drained away by vomiting.
- An effective way to deal with chemo nausea is keeping stress at bay. Avoiding stress is the best way to avoid nausea and giddiness. Stress leads to indigestion and undue gas trouble which in turn may lead to feeling of nausea.
- Keeping the ambiance fresh is the best way to remain fresh mentally. After a chemo session, the sensory organs like nose, eyes become sensitive. If the environment around is stinking or the visuals are mind boggling like butchering or slaughtering or garbage clearing then it triggers chemo nausea.
- Right before the initiation of chemo treatment, it is better to inform the health care team when you are feeling nauseated. If the vomiting turns severe then it is imperative to contact your oncologist, as persistent vomiting makes the intake of food and beverage challenging.
Is Chemo Nausea Harmful?
Chemo nausea is harmful for sure as it drains away water and essential nutrients. Repeated vomiting is highly dangerous and if vomiting occurs more than three times a day, there is high chance for dehydration. Now vomiting differs in approach, when the patient's vomiting is accompanied with these signs then medical attention should be sought immediately:
- When urine is dark in color.
- Insufficient or decreased urine output.
- Rapid heartbeat.
- Dizziness upon standing up.
- Dry and flushed skin.
- The tongue is coated with a white and velvety substance.
- When there is irritability and confusion in the patient.
- When the patient has decreased appetite and the smell of any food or beverage triggers vomiting.
What Can Care-Givers Do to Prevent Chemo Nausea?
There are certain things which can be taken care of by close relatives or someone else who is taking care of the patient when the patient feels nauseated after chemotherapy:
- Keep the patient away from odors of meals when cooking to avoid triggering of chemo nausea.
- Request neighbors do the same to stop any further exposure of the patient to the emerging fumes of cooking. As the aroma of cooking may be good for others, but not for the patient who is feeling chemo nausea.
- Cooked food spreading strong or unfriendly smells for the patient should be kept well covered.
- Keep the air fresh around the patient as much as possible and keep the patient's room well ventilated.
- It is always to feed the patient with forks and spoons that are made of fiber or standard quality plastics.
- Avoid using metal forks and spoons. It may cause bitter taste as the taste buds of the patient after chemotherapy become sensitive and might accelerate nausea and/or vomiting.
- Patient suffering with severe nausea and vomiting will cause dehydration also. Measuring the weight of the patient daily will help to determine the severity of the dehydration if the nausea and vomiting continues over a period of days or week.
- Preventive medicines of nausea and vomiting should be changed immediately in consultation with the physician if the situation worsens. It may be a symptom of refractory syndrome where the existing medicines do not have any effect.
- A careful observation of signs like dizziness, weakness or confusion is important to decide the follow-up urgent treatment or hospitalization.
- Constipation or dehydration makes nausea worse, watch it carefully and get medical help to get rid of the same.
Along with Chemo Nausea, what are Other Associated Symptoms which Need Immediate Medical Attention?
Urgent and Specialist Medical Team should be called when:
- Patient might have inhaled some of the vomited material.
- Patient is vomiting more than 3 times within an hour or 3 or more hours in a day consecutively.
- If blood or material that looks like coffee grounds is seen in the vomit.
- If patient cannot take in more than 4 cups of liquid or ice chips in a day or can't eat for more than 2 days.
- Patient is not in a condition to take medicines orally.
- If patient looks weak, dizzy or confused.
- Loses 2 or more pounds in 1 to 2 days.
- If patient has decreased urination and the urine is dark yellow in color.