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The Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program of BC

For Patients & Families
Complications & Side Effects

Nausea & Vomiting

Nausea/vomiting is a very common side effect with chemotherapy.  There are many different things that can trigger nausea such as motion, heartburn, food or other odours, and feeling full after eating. It is important to keep track of these triggers and to tell your doctor or nurse about them. This way, you can get the most effective anti-nausea medication.


Prior to receiving chemotherapy or total body irradiation, you will receive medications that are very effective in minimizing nausea. These medications may be given by mouth, under the tongue, or through your Hickman® line on a regular basis throughout the therapy. Some of the anti-nausea medications cause a feeling of drowsiness and many patients find that they will nap quite frequently during this procedure.

Many different anti-nausea (also called anti-emetic) medications are available to you throughout the course of your treatment.  They can be prescribed for you based on your nausea/vomiting triggers.

What You Can Do

  • Keep your mouth fresh by rinsing before and after meals/snacks.
  • Eat small, more frequent meals/snacks throughout the day.
  • Take clear fluids such as juice, broth or jello rather than a regular meal prior to chemotherapy or total body irradiation.
  • Avoid spicy, fried and greasy foods. Starchy, bland foods are better tolerated. Try saltines, rice cakes, rusks, bread sticks, plain toast, pretzels, bagels, noodles, rice, plain congee, plain roti or digestive cookies.
  • Put some crackers or biscuits by your bedside. Eating a little before you get up in the morning may help.
  • If food odours trigger your nausea, try foods that are cool/cold.  Reduce cooking odours by using a kitchen fan and keeping pots covered.
  • Choose foods based on how they will taste/feel coming back up. For example, soft foods like jello and ice-cream might be easier on your throat compared to a harder texture like chips.
  • Eat whenever your appetite is the best.
  • Learn some relaxation and distraction techniques that work well for you.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • If nausea is severe, rinse a facecloth with very cold water, wring it out and apply to the face and the back of the neck. Continue rinsing with very cold water and applying.

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