Nausea is a common symptom of many different conditions. Medical professionals usually associate it with stomach discomfort and the possible urge to vomit.

Nausea is not a condition or illness itself. It is also not specific to any one condition. Instead, several different conditions, ranging from benign to severe, can cause nausea to occur.

A person may be able to manage nausea at home with no need for medical intervention. When other symptoms accompany nausea, people may need emergency medical services.

This article reviews what nausea feels like, when to consult a healthcare professional, possible causes, treatment, and prevention. We also look at possible complications, when nausea occurs with and without vomiting, and frequently asked questions.

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Nausea is a feeling of discomfort or sickness in the stomach that may come with an urge to vomit.

It is often a symptom of illness, underlying conditions or disorders, or treatments, such as a reaction to a medication.

In some cases, it may occur independently without a known reason.

A person may not need to contact a healthcare professional if all they experience is a feeling of nausea. Experts may recommend that someone seek medical advice if they:

  • feel sick and do not feel better in a few days
  • feel sick on and off

A medical professional can help determine the cause and suggest treatments.

Contacting a doctor in an emergency

In severe cases, nausea could signal a heart attack. If a person experiences other symptoms of a heart attack, they should call 911 or seek emergency medical care immediately.

Possible symptoms of a heart attack may include:

  • chest pain or discomfort
  • discomfort or pain in the arms or shoulders
  • weakness, lightheadedness, or faintness
  • shortness of breath
  • pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, or back

Other symptoms to watch for include severe headache, confusion, stiff neck, or trouble breathing. These may also require emergency medical attention.

Many different illnesses, underlying conditions, and medical treatments can cause nausea.

Possible causes include:

Gastrointestinal (GI) infections from viruses or food poisoning are the most common causes of nausea.

Nausea management can vary based on the underlying condition causing nausea. In some cases, treating the underlying condition can help.

For general nausea relief, some things that may help include:

  • drinking ginger or peppermint tea
  • getting fresh air
  • eating foods with ginger
  • staying hydrated with small sips of cool liquid
  • eating small, frequent meals
  • avoiding strong-smelling, greasy, or spicy foods

It may not be possible to prevent all cases of nausea due to the variety of conditions that can cause it.

The most common cause is a GI infection. To help prevent an infection, a person can try:

  • cooking shellfish thoroughly
  • washing hands often
  • rinsing fruits and vegetables
  • avoiding preparing food for others when sick for 2 days following symptom relief
  • staying home when sick and for 2 days after symptoms stop

It is best to consult a healthcare professional if any of the following apply:

  • if a person is pregnant and wants to discuss ways to manage nausea
  • if medication is the probable cause, and a person wishes to discuss switching medications
  • if a person has underlying health conditions and wants to discuss changes in symptoms if nausea develops

Chronic nausea could be a sign of an undiagnosed underlying condition. And some people experience idiopathic chronic nausea, where nausea has no identifiable cause.

According to a 2019 study, people who experience frequent bouts of nausea often experience a lower quality of life. Nausea can lead to:

  • decreased mobility
  • increased pain or discomfort
  • a higher occurrence of depression or anxiety

Nausea without vomiting means a person does not empty the contents of their stomach through their mouth due to nausea; nausea with vomiting means the person will.

According to a 2019 study, people who experience chronic nausea often do not experience vomiting with their nausea.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions.

What relieves feelings of nausea?

Nausea relief can come from over-the-counter (OTC) medications, home remedies, or lifestyle changes, such as switching seats in the car when motion sickness is the cause.

For the best results in treating their nausea, a person will need to identify and treat the underlying condition causing it.

When should I be concerned about nausea?

Nausea can signify a heart attack or other serious underlying condition. A person should learn the signs of a heart attack, including chest pain, pain in the shoulders or arms, and trouble breathing.

Why am I nauseous but not vomiting?

Nausea does not always lead to vomiting. For example, motion sickness may cause nausea, but people may not vomit, particularly if they switch seats or stop traveling.

What causes nausea every day?

Several conditions can cause chronic nausea. If a person does not know what the underlying cause is, they should consider discussing their symptoms with a doctor to help determine the cause.

Nausea is a symptom that may or may not occur with vomiting. It can occur due to an underlying condition, or it may occur on its own for no obvious reason.

A person can often find relief by treating the underlying condition causing nausea. They can also take steps to use home remedies to try to get some relief.

If nausea occurs with other symptoms of a heart attack, a person should seek emergency medical treatment immediately.