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Nausea and vomiting


Your child may have nausea (an upset stomach) or may vomit (throw up) if treatment affects his stomach lining. Treatment also can trigger 2 “centers” in the brain, one that controls nausea and another that controls vomiting. These 2 centers are separate from each other. So, it is possible for your child to have nausea but not vomit, or he might keep eating even though food will not stay down.

Each child is unique and reacts to treatments in different ways. Nausea or vomiting caused by treatment can happen at any time. The treatment team will give your child medicine to help prevent these problems. If the medicine is not controlling your child’s nausea or vomiting, talk to the treatment team.

Sometimes, just the thought of chemotherapy or radiation can cause nausea or vomiting in older children and teens. This is called anticipatory nausea and vomiting. If this becomes a problem for your child, please talk to the treatment team.

Some medicines used for nausea and vomiting might make your child feel drowsy. Many older children and teens refuse this medicine because they do not like feeling “drugged.” Often, they would rather be awake and vomiting than asleep and feeling “out of control.” Control is an important issue for teens. Please try to respect your child’s feelings in this area. Discuss this with the treatment team, so everyone can agree on a plan to treat nausea and vomiting without making your child too drowsy.

Here are some ideas to help decrease nausea and vomiting:

  • Serve meals in an airy room, away from smells caused by cooking or cigarette smoke.
  • Try small, frequent meals.
  • Avoid fried, spicy, greasy, or rich foods.
  • Avoid foods with strong odors.
  • Give dry or salty foods, and cold foods without a strong odor.
  • Try dry crackers or toast, as well as low-fat foods like sherbets, popsicles, gelatins, pretzels, and vanilla wafers.
  • Try not to serve favorite foods until the nausea and vomiting stop. This will keep your child from connecting these foods with feelings of illness.
  • Give cool, clear liquids between meals.
  • After meals, have your child rest with his head raised.
  • Rinse the mouth well after vomiting. Stomach acid will cause tooth decay and will bother an already tender mouth.

If you have questions about nausea and vomiting, talk to your child’s doctor or nurse.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

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