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Coping With Nausea

January 2011

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Help From Food

Help From Food

Consider the following tips to help manage nausea. These suggestions have worked for others.

  • Leave dry crackers by your bed. Before getting out of bed in the morning, eat a few and sit in bed for a few minutes.
  • Sip cool, not cold, carbonated drinks, like ginger-ale, 7-Up, Sprite or cola.
  • Try some peppermint, chamomile or ginger tea -- they may calm the stomach.
  • Avoid hot, spicy, strong-smelling and greasy foods that might upset your stomach.
  • Eat foods at room temperature or cooler; hot foods may add to nausea.
  • Try using capsules of gingerroot powder, available at health food stores. Ginger may reduce symptoms associated with motion sickness, like dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
  • Fresh ginger, lightly cooked or juiced with fruits or vegetables like carrots or apples, is great to add to the diet, and may be as effective as dried ginger.
  • Try the BRAT Diet (Bananas, Rice, Applesauce and Toast).
  • Prevent dehydration during bouts of nausea by drinking small amounts of clear and cool beverages every 15 minutes or so.
  • If you vomit, replace fluids with broth, carbonated beverages, juice, Jell-O or Popsicles.


Switching or Stopping Therapy

Sometimes people experiencing serious side effects -- like prolonged nausea -- will switch some of their HIV drugs to improve their quality of life, even though the drugs controlled HIV well. This is one way to deal with side effects linked to a particular drug.

Switching a drug solely because of side effects may also save that drug as a future treatment option. In fact, side effects that you experience with a drug at one time may not occur again if or when you try that drug again.

However, it's dangerous to simply stop taking one drug in your regimen, to take it only periodically or to reduce the dose without talking to your doctor. This can do more harm than good as it may lead to drug resistance, making that drug -- and perhaps others like it -- less useful for you now and in the future.

A Note on Pregnancy and "Morning Sickness"

Help From Food

Nausea or "morning sickness" during pregnancy is normal and usually a problem only during the first 3 months. However, pregnant women living with HIV may experience particular difficulty with nausea. This may be because of the combined effect of your body's hormonal changes, using HIV medications and, possibly, HIV disease itself.

If nausea persists into the second trimester (weeks 13-26), or if you cannot hold food down at all or lose weight, consider seeing a doctor at once. It could be a sign of a more serious problem.

Everyday Causes? Try the Following

  • Avoid odors that bother you, like smoke, perfume or the smell of certain foods.
  • Avoid loud noises and certain sights or images, such as the glare of a television.
  • Get plenty of rest. Try napping. Nausea tends to worsen if you are tired.
  • Get up slowly, and do not lie down right after eating.
  • Drinking liquids with a straw may help you avoid unsettling movement.
  • If cooking odors bother you, open the windows or, if possible, ask someone else to cook meals.
  • Avoid eating in a room that's stuffy, too warm or has cooking odors or smells.
  • Eat meals while sitting instead of laying in bed, or on a couch or floor.
  • Avoid things that irritate the stomach, like alcohol, aspirin or smoking.
  • Try to reduce your stress through relaxation, exercise, or talking to friends.
  • Consider whether your attitude towards or feelings about the meds you take might contribute to your nausea.
  • Try acupressure or acupuncture.
  • Ask your doctor about anti-nausea medications.

Some Final Thoughts

Feeling sick to one's stomach can be a disruptive side effect of medications to treat HIV or an uncomfortable symptom of some other problem. Fortunately, there are often simple solutions that exist to lessen nausea. Determining what these solutions are takes a bit of planning and effort, but can be well worth it.

Other Publications That May Help

Dealing with Drug Side Effects

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Side Effect Chart: An Abbreviated, At-a-Glance Guide to HIV Drug Side Effects
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This article was provided by Project Inform. Visit Project Inform's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.

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