Nausea - or feeling sick - is a common complaint which can affect anyone at any age. Nausea can have many causes, including a stomach bug (gastroenteritis) and, during pregnancy, as a symptom of morning sickness.

By Wallace Health I Medically reviewed by Adrian Roberts.
Page last reviewed: October 2018 I Next review due: October 2021


Nausea is often followed by vomiting, but usually clears up after two or three days without any need for treatment. If it continues for several days or you have repeated bouts, it might be a symptom of an underlying condition.

Causes of nausea

There are many conditions that can cause you to feel sick. If you also have diarrhoea and vomiting, you may have gastroenteritis, food poisoning or a virus such as norovirus.

If you also have a headache and a high temperature, you may have flu.

Feeling sick often accompanies the intense headache of a migraine, along with vomiting and light/sound sensitivity.

It’s also common to have nausea in the early weeks of pregnancy, although some women feel nauseous throughout their pregnancy.

Other common causes of nausea include:

Nausea is rarely serious but it can occasionally be a sign of a heart attack. Seek medical assistance immediately if you suddenly feel nauseous and have:

  • Chest pain
  • Pain or a burning sensation radiating down your arms or neck
  • Shortness of breath

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about symptoms

You can book an appointment with a Spire private GP today.

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Getting a diagnosis for nausea

With most bouts of nausea, you’ll stop feeling sick after a few hours to a few days. However, you should see your GP if your nausea continues, you’re frequently nauseous or you’re losing weight without trying.

To diagnose the cause of your nausea, your GP may examine your stomach and discuss how you feel. You might be asked to take a pregnancy test and have other tests, including blood and urine tests.

Your GP may refer you to a consultant for further investigations, diagnosis and treatment.

Treatments for nausea

If there’s no improvement in how you feel after a few days, you should contact your GP. In the meantime, to relieve your nausea you can try:

  • Sipping cold, carbonated, preferably sour drinks – water, ginger beer and lemonade are good choices if you’re feeling sick
  • Drinking peppermint tea and ginger tea
  • Eating small, frequent meals – and eating slowly
  • Doing something to distract yourself and not lying down straight after eating
  • Avoiding fried, greasy or spicy food – bland food will be much easier on your digestive system
  • Wearing loose clothing that doesn’t put pressure on your stomach or waist

Your GP may prescribe anti-nausea medication and, if required, will recommend treatment for the underlying cause of your nausea. If your nausea is a side effect of medication, your GP or consultant may prescribe a different medication or change your dosage. If you're pregnant, always check with your doctor or midwife before you take any medications.

For morning sickness nausea, you should always get advice from your midwife or GP before taking any medication.