Common Causes Of Nausea

August 12, 2023

Nausea is characterized as a feeling of discomfort and queasiness in the stomach, and it can occur with or without an urge to vomit. While nausea is not a disease itself, it is a recognized symptom of many medical conditions, and it can be a side effect of numerous medications. Patients may have acute nausea that lasts for a few minutes or hours, or they might experience episodes of nausea on a long-term basis. Individuals who feel nauseous for more than a few days should see a healthcare provider to be properly assessed. Doctors will typically begin with a health history, and patients should let their physician know about any headaches, lethargy, or vomiting they have experienced. The doctor may want to perform blood tests or imaging studies to determine the reasons for a patient's nausea and subsequent treatment options.

The conditions described below are frequent triggers for nausea.

Cold And Flu

Nausea can sometimes occur in cases of cold and flu. Both the common cold and the flu are viral infections that affect the upper respiratory system, and they have many of the same symptoms. While the common cold is generally mild and appears gradually, the flu has a sudden onset with more intense, longer-lasting symptoms. Nausea is most likely to occur with the flu, and it rarely occurs with a cold. Typical flu symptoms include a fever of more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, and muscle aches, particularly in the back, legs, and arms. Flu patients might also notice a stuffy nose, loss of appetite, and fatigue. As with the flu, patients who have a cold could notice fatigue, coughing, and muscle aches, too. Other cold symptoms include sneezing, a runny nose with green or yellow discharge, a fever of up to 102 degrees Fahrenheit, and watery eyes; these symptoms are uncommon in cases of flu. A vaccine is available to prevent many strains of the flu, and patients can reduce their risk of both colds and flu by washing their hands regularly and not touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.

Uncover more causes of nausea now.

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can develop when the motion a patient sees is different than the motion sensed by their inner ear. Many individuals get motion sickness while riding on roller coasters or other amusement park rides, and some might also experience it during travel by boat, airplane, train, or car. Most cases of motion sickness begin with sweating, dizziness, and feelings of uneasiness, and headaches, fatigue, and pale skin might be present. As the condition progresses, many patients will experience nausea, and some individuals could vomit. Children and pregnant women are most at risk of motion sickness, and a patient's anxiety about travel might also increase the likelihood of developing it. The condition most often occurs during travel by boat, and low ventilation and the inability to see out of a window could exacerbate symptoms. Normally, patients can self-treat this condition with over-the-counter medication. However, before taking any of these medications, patients should be aware of the potential for side effects such as dry mouth, disorientation, and blurred vision. Individuals taking other medicines and patients with underlying medical conditions should check with a doctor or pharmacist to avoid possible drug interactions or additional side effects.

Keep reading to learn more about what can cause nausea now.


Migraines are severe, recurring headaches that can be debilitating. Patients having a migraine frequently experience nausea with or without vomiting, and sensitivity to touch, light, smells, and sound is common. Some migraine patients might notice mood swings, and the pain associated with migraines can occur on one or both sides of the head. Migraines may last for around four hours, and some patients might have migraines that persist for three days at a time. Frequent yawning, food cravings, and mood changes may begin up to two days before a patient's migraine, and patients could also notice an aura in advance of their migraine. Generally, an aura lasts for twenty to sixty minutes and includes visual disturbances such as seeing lights or shapes or having blank spots in the visual field. Some individuals have reported hearing music or noises, and weakness in one side of the body has occurred.

Neurologists can usually diagnose migraines with a health history, physical examination, and neurological examination. In some cases, a CT or MRI scan may be recommended. Treatment options for migraines include pain relievers and preventative medicines that can reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibodies, antidepressants, calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants are often used for migraine prevention.

Read more about the various causes of nausea now.

Food Poisoning

Food poisoning is a condition that develops following exposure to bacteria or other contaminants in food. Listeria, campylobacter, and salmonella are all common contaminants linked to food poisoning, and contamination can occur at any stage of the food production and preparation process. For example, some contaminants could be spread by food handlers who have an infection, and food could also become contaminated if it is left out for too long or not properly heated or chilled.

Symptoms of food poisoning can begin within a few hours of ingesting contaminated food, and some patients might not develop symptoms for more than a week after exposure. In addition to nausea, individuals with food poisoning typically experience abdominal pain, fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Patients should seek urgent medical attention if they have a fever of more than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or if they notice blurry vision, muscle weakness, or signs of dehydration. While some cases of food poisoning resolve in a few days without treatment, doctors may prescribe intravenous fluids to treat dehydration, and antibiotics might be recommended for individuals with food poisoning caused by bacteria.

Uncover more causes of nausea now.


Vertigo is a sensation of whirling that occurs while a patient is completely still. It causes difficulties with balance, and individuals may become nauseous and dizzy. Ringing in the ears, called tinnitus, occurs in some instances too. Vertigo is most often caused by issues with the inner ear, and some cases may be triggered by problems in certain areas of the brain. Migraines, labyrinthitis (infection of the inner ear), and vestibular neuronitis (inflammation of the vestibular nerve) are all recognized causes of vertigo, and it may occasionally be triggered by certain head movements. To determine the cause of this symptom, doctors will look in the patient's ears and examine how their eyes move. Patients might be asked to have hearing tests, posturography, videonystagmography, or caloric testing, and CT or MRI scans of the brain may be beneficial as well. To treat vertigo, doctors might choose to prescribe antihistamines or prochlorperazine for patients with mild cases, and vestibular rehabilitation training is often advised.

Get more information regarding what can cause nausea now.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a medical condition that can cause nausea and several other symptoms. This is a specific kind of digestive disorder affecting the lower esophageal sphincter, a ring of muscle is located between the stomach and esophagus. Several types of individuals are at risk of developing gastroesophageal reflux disease. For instance, being pregnant increases an individual's risk. In addition to causing nausea, GERD is capable of causing acid indigestion and heartburn. Some individuals develop gastroesophageal reflux disease because of a hiatal hernia. The majority of patients can alleviate their symptoms by making changes to their lifestyle and diet. However, there are sometimes cases where the condition must be managed through medication or surgical intervention. With normal indigestion, the lower esophageal sphincter stays closed after food flows through it to keep the food from going back into the esophagus. However, GERD causes the muscle to become weakened, leading food to flow back into the throat.

Learn more about triggers for nausea now.

Overeating Or Eating Certain Foods

The digestive system is part of a delicate balance, and what individuals put into it affects how their bodies feel. Sometimes the underlying cause of nausea isn't a medical condition at all, but is simply a temporary condition caused by something an individual ate. Eating too much can cause individuals to feel nauseous, as can eating certain kinds of foods. A food intolerance occurs when an individual's digestive system has trouble processing certain foods, but isn't fully allergic to them. If someone has a food intolerance, they might experience nausea after eating some kinds of food. Some of the most common food intolerances are to gluten, large amounts of salt, and food that's undergone a large amount of chemical processing and preservation. Eating a lot of sugar at once can also lead to nausea and symptoms of high blood sugar, especially if individuals have an underlying condition like diabetes. When individuals eat too much food at once, it causes their digestive muscles to become stretched past the point of pain, which is what causes nausea.

Uncover more on what can cause nausea now.

Stomach Ulcers

Stomach ulcers are a potential cause of nausea, and they can also be a very serious medical condition. These ulcers, also called gastric ulcers, occur when painful sores form in the lining of the stomach. Stomach ulcers are one kind of peptic ulcer disease. When individuals talk about peptic ulcers, they are referring to any ulcers that affect either the small intestines or stomach. An ulcer forms when there's a reduction in the mucus layer protecting the stomach from the digestive juices. This allows the acid that breaks down food to also eat through the stomach lining. If the ulcer isn't treated properly, it can become severe, but some stomach ulcers can also be easily cured. Nearly all ulcers are caused by a bacterial infection or by long-term use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like naproxen. There are rare cases where Zollinger-Ellison syndrome will lead to ulcers because it increases the body's acid production. Ulcers can cause nausea, and they also tend to cause burning pain in the abdomen that gets more intense with an empty stomach.

Keep reading to learn more about the different causes of nausea now.


Diarrhea is a condition that occurs when individuals experience loose, watery stools. Severe diarrhea may be uncontrollable. Diarrhea is a sign of gastrointestinal distress, and it's often accompanied by nausea and cramping. Some patients experience nausea right before they throw up, while others might experience nausea before a loose stool. The cause of nausea, in this case, is a signal being sent to the nervous system. There are nerves throughout the digestive lining that can become irritated in a variety of different circumstances. Sometimes this happens when individuals eat a food they can't digest, or when the system is exposed to viruses or bacteria that pose a health threat. When this is the case, the irritated nerves tell the individual's body to expel the digestive system's contents as fast as possible. Depending on where the contents of the digestive system are, this might result in diarrhea or vomiting. Nausea and diarrhea can go hand-in-hand, and they're most common when individuals experience food poisoning or the stomach flu.

Discover additional causes of nausea now.


A fever can sometimes cause nausea, or at least present alongside nausea. Fevers occur when the immune system raises the body's overall temperature in response to an infection or illness. Some researchers believe this is an attempt to kill off pathogens that can't survive at high temperatures. Many infections and illnesses can cause a fever. One of the most common that also causes nausea is the stomach flu, and it is among the most common causes of food-transmitted illnesses found in the United States. Usually, the underlying condition that causes a fever is also what causes nausea. If an individual's body temperature rises high enough that they feel sick because of it alone, they should see a doctor. Fevers are considered high when an individual's temperature rises to levels higher than 103 degrees Fahrenheit. Extremely high fevers can cause serious damage to the organs and brain, and they may be an indicator the individual's body isn't equipped to fight off the infection.

MORE FROM HealthPrep