While they're most often associated with symptoms like swelling or watery eyes, excess mucus, and sneezing, allergies can also cause nausea. A slightly-less common experience, this symptom can develop as part of the body's adverse immune reaction to allergen exposure. This article will explore everything you need to know about nausea, from its causes to its ties to allergies to the best treatment options.
What is Nausea?
In a technical sense, nausea is defined as a sensation of queasiness and an urge to vomit. It's often equated to the term 'sick to your stomach', causing abdominal uneasiness and discomfort. Nausea can sometimes culminate in actual vomiting but often just presents itself as a dull, persistent ache.
What Causes Nausea?
Nausea is not a disease itself, but rather a symptom of an underlying illness or biological reaction. It can range in severity from mild to extremely painful. The following are some of the most common causes of nausea along with a short explanation of how each causes it.
Allergies create a wide-scale response in the body, affecting countless systems and functions. The digestive tract is no exception; histamines released to fight off allergies can cause inflammation and irritation in the stomach tissues, leading to uneasiness and nausea.
It's also worth noting that other allergy symptoms like headaches and dizziness may further contribute to nausea, as well as side effects of certain medications used for treating allergy symptoms like a runny nose or watery eyes.
Food poisoning is a term used to describe a range of illnesses caused by eating contaminated food. It can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites and usually produces symptoms like vomiting, nausea, and diarrhea.
Infection ("Stomach Flu")
Bacterial and viral infections in the stomach and digestive tract, such as stomach flu, can lead to inflammation and symptoms like stomach cramps, fever, diarrhea, and nausea. They can be highly contagious and picked up from contact with infected persons or objects.
Motion sickness is caused by the disconnect between what the eyes can see and what the inner ear can feel. Unusual turns and shifts cause a mismatch of signals in the brain, leading to nausea, dizziness and sometimes vomiting.
Appendicitis is a condition caused by the inflammation of the appendix and can be accompanied by a range of symptoms, from fever to abdominal pain. Nausea is among the most common ones and is usually present in the earliest stages of appendicitis.
Concussion or Brain Injury
Head injuries like concussions typically produce a range of symptoms including nausea, headaches, and dizziness. These can sometimes last for weeks or months after the injury depending on the severity.
A blocked intestine can lead to nausea, as the body struggles to move food through it. This is usually due to a build-up of fecal matter and can occur in people with a condition known as 'bowel obstruction'. It can also happen to healthy individuals if they consume too much fiber or food that's hard to digest.
Eating too much or eating food that's difficult to digest can leave your stomach feeling queasy. Eating too fast is a key culprit of this type of nausea, especially since it can make it harder to tell when you get full. Consuming a large meal can also cause your stomach to produce excess stomach acid, leading to feelings of discomfort and pain.
Migraines are a type of severe headache that can produce nausea and vomiting as its main symptoms. They're usually felt as a throbbing or pulsating pain that can last for hours and is often accompanied by hypersensitivity to light and sound.
How Do Allergies Cause Nausea?
When allergens enter the body, it releases a range of chemicals, like histamine. While designed to combat the irritants, these chemicals can also cause inflammation in the digestive system. Organs react to the inflammation by producing excess stomach acid and digestive enzymes, leading to nausea and other symptoms.
Nausea can provoke a host of unpleasant symptoms in the body. The specifics and severity of these depend on the underlying cause. Below is a list of the most common nausea-related symptoms.
Feeling Like You are About to Vomit
The most characteristic symptom of nausea is a persistent feeling that you're about to vomit. This uneasiness usually ruminates in the stomach and can last anywhere between several hours and multiple days.
In some cases, a person experiencing nausea will feel a painful or aching feeling in their stomach instead of, or in addition to, their uneasiness.
Lack of Appetite
Often associated with stomach sickness, lack of appetite is another common side effect of nausea. People will often feel too uncomfortable or queasy to eat, even if they're hungry.
Weakness and Fatigue
Nausea can also leave a person feeling weak and fatigued as the body expends energy fighting its symptoms. This is especially true if the condition has been present for several days.
Sweating and Chills
People experiencing nausea often feel hot and cold as different parts of their bodies react to the distress. Sweating and shivering simultaneously are not uncommon.
Defined as vomiting without actually producing any contents, retching is caused by the diaphragm contracting in response to nausea.
Depending on the cause of the symptom and its severity, nausea can lead to vomiting. This is often the case when an infection or mechanical issue in the digestive system is at play.
Additionally, the other symptoms of nausea themselves can also sometimes be self-perpetuating. For example, if you haven't eaten for a long period of time or retched continuously, you may begin to vomit.
Uneasy Feeling In the Chest and Throat
When nausea is severe, it can create a feeling of tightness and discomfort in the chest and throat. This further contributes to the overall sense that vomiting is imminent.
Nausea Treatment and Relief
While nausea can be a debilitating problem, it's not without potential solutions. There are many remedies that can be used to both manage and relieve symptoms.
Ginger is a natural, time-old remedy for nausea. It's believed to work by calming the digestive system and neutralizing stomach acids. Brew tea from fresh ginger root, or take it as a supplement if you prefer.
The citrus from lemons can help reduce nausea symptoms by stimulating the release of saliva, which helps to balance stomach acids. Drink a glass of warm lemon water with honey to ease your symptoms.
Peppermint oil is a natural remedy for nausea that has been used for centuries. It works by stimulating the release of bile, which aids digestion and reduces stomach upset.
Acupressure is an ancient form of massage that can be used to relieve nausea. Applying pressure to certain points on the body (usually the wrists) helps to reduce the feeling of nausea and other associated symptoms.
Change in Diet
In some cases, nausea may be alleviated by changing the foods that you eat. Try to avoid fatty and greasy foods, as they tend to cause digestive upset. Include lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains in your diet instead.
Avoid Motion Sickness
If you're prone to motion sickness, try to avoid reading or looking at a device in moving vehicles. You can also take medication specifically for motion sickness if you plan on traveling a lot.
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, and meditation can help to reduce stress and lower your overall levels of discomfort. This can make it easier to cope with nausea if it's caused by anxiety or another psychological issue.
If all else fails, there are medications available to help reduce the symptoms of nausea. Over-the-counter (OTC) antiemetics can be taken to reduce the feeling of nausea, while prescription drugs may be required for more severe cases. It's always recommended to speak to your doctor before taking medications.
How Can I Prevent Allergy Nausea?
Preventing nausea from allergies requires addressing the underlying problem. If your symptoms are caused by allergic reactions, the reality is that they'll never stop unless you handle things at their source. There are many ways to do this, but it all starts with getting tested.
An allergy test can identify what you are allergic to and confirm which allergens provoke your body. Once you know what they are, you can begin to limit your exposure and effectively reduce the likelihood of a reaction.
When to See a Doctor
While usually non-serious, there are certain situations in which seeking medical attention is recommended. If you experience severe or persistent nausea, have difficulty keeping fluids down, are vomiting blood, or have a fever, it's recommended to see a doctor or seek emergency treatment. Further testing may be required to help uncover potential underlying medical issues.
If you're experiencing allergy-induced nausea, seeing a doctor can also be beneficial. In some cases, medications or long-term treatment options may be available to help reduce the severity of reactions and prevent future episodes.
Allergy diagnosis is a simple process that allows people to understand what substances they’re allergic to. It can be done in one of two ways: skin prick testing or at-home testing.
The first is a more conventional method that involves pricking the skin with tiny needles containing a small amount of allergen. Reactions are then observed and recorded, allowing doctors to pinpoint which substances cause adverse immune responses. This can sometimes be uncomfortable and time-consuming.
The second method, at-home testing, is more convenient. Done with a mail-order kit, it involves taking a blood sample and sending it off to a laboratory for analysis. Results are generally returned within a few weeks and can be used to accurately identify allergens.
How to Treat Nausea from Allergies
If testing confirms that you're dealing with allergies, there are plenty of steps you can take to address the problem beyond simply avoiding allergens.
OTC and prescription medications can be taken to temporarily reduce the symptoms of nausea. Common drugs include antihistamines and antacids, as well as corticosteroids or other anti-inflammatory medications.
Allergy shots are one of the most effective ways of treating allergies. Usually administered over three to five years, they work by introducing small doses of the allergen into the body regularly, essentially building up the immune system's strength and reducing its sensitivity over time. The main challenge with this approach is that it requires ongoing trips to the doctor's office and a tolerance for needles.
Sublingual immunotherapy, or SLIT, is just as effective as allergy shots and can be done at home. Rather than injections, it involves taking liquid drops or tablets of allergen under the tongue regularly. Over time, this reduces sensitivity to the allergen and can reduce the impacts of allergy triggers, resulting in long-term allergy relief.
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