Nausea & Vomiting during Cancer Therapy
Your child may feel nauseated or be physically sick during or after chemotherapy, or after radiotherapy.
Some chemotherapy drugs only have effects after several doses, while others cause nausea after a single dose. Some cause no nausea at all.
Chemotherapy and radiotherapy can also alter the sense of smell. Your child may be nauseated by scents that do not disturb other people.
There is no relationship between nausea and effectiveness of the medicine.
Nausea and vomiting can also be caused by
- General anaesthetic
- Other medications and procedures
- Physical pain
- Emotional distress
Anti-emetic drugs reduce nausea and vomiting. Your child can take these before, during, and after treatment. Most require specific dose timing, so give them as prescribed and do not skip doses.
Your child may need more than one anti-emetic. Talk to the oncologist about these drugs if they are not prescribed, or if prescribed drugs are not working.
Encourage your child to wear loose fitting clothing as this affords greater comfort and is easier to remove if soiled.
Take a complete change of clothes when you leave the house, and carry a bucket, towels, and baby wipes in case of vomiting.
Keep your child quiet after chemotherapy, in a well ventilated, calm room.
Encourage your child to rest after eating.
Keep your child’s head elevated about 12 inches above the feet when she feels nauseated. Lying flat can induce vomiting.
Use distractions such as TV, videos, music, quiet games or reading aloud.
Smells can trigger strong feelings of nausea. Try not to cook in the house when your child feels ill (this is a great time to take up the offer of help from friends). If possible, open windows to let plenty of fresh air circulate.
Avoid serving hot foods, as the odour can aggravate nausea.
Avoid sweet, fried, or spicy food.
Serve bland foods such as potatoes, soup, crackers or toast.
Serve small, frequent meals or snacks throughout the day, rather than large meals. Nausea is often worse when the stomach is empty, and smaller portions may encourage your child to eat.
Encourage your child to eat slowly and chew food completely.
Avoid serving drinks with food as this can induce vomiting. Serve drinks at least half an hour after your child has finished eating.
Serve plenty of clear cold liquids (water, juice, ginger ale, flat soda or cordial).
Use a covered cup with a straw to encourage drinking.
Flavoured ice cubes, lollies and jelly reduce nausea and are fluid rich.
If your child is sick, rinse her mouth with plain or lemon water to remove the taste.
Vomiting causes the body to lose water and nutrients. Dehydration can be very serious in children, especially when the child’s body is already weakened by cancer treatment.
Hospitalization may be necessary if your child is very sick. Intravenous fluids will be given to restore fluid and electrolyte balance, and your child will also receive intravenous anti-emetics.
Vomiting may reduce the effectiveness of oral medications if they have not yet been absorbed. Treatments may be stopped temporarily until vomiting is under control.