Several conditions can cause nausea, including stress, anxiety, infections, and motion sickness. Nausea often resolves independently, and home remedies can often reduce symptom severity.

Nausea is a sensation that makes a person feel they need to vomit. Sometimes, individuals with nausea do vomit, but not always.

In this article, we explore what triggers nausea, including a list of 12 common causes. We will also discuss some of these conditions in more detail and describe their symptoms and treatments.

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There are many triggers for nausea. Some common causes include:

Food poisoning or stomach flu

Gastrointestinal infections, such as those caused by food poisoning or viruses, are among the most common reasons for nausea.

Symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • stomach pain or cramping
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea

Food poisoning occurs when a person ingests food or drink containing a virus, toxin, or bacterium, such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli. Gastrointestinal viruses, such as norovirus or rotavirus, can transmit in the same way. However, close contact with other affected persons can increase transmission risk.

Flu and COVID-19

Other types of viral infections can also trigger nausea, such as flu and COVID-19.

A 2021 review found that out of 6,335 people with COVID-19, 79% experienced nausea.

People with flu can also have many of these symptoms. Nausea is more common in children with flu compared to adults, but both groups may experience it.

Learn the differences between the common cold, flu, and COVID-19.

Digestive disorders

A range of digestive disorders can induce nausea, including:

  • Gastritis: Acid or a bacterium called H. pylori often cause inflammation of the stomach, which can lead to stomach ulcers.
  • Gastroparesis: With this condition, the stomach empties much slower than it should. Certain medications or nerve damage usually cause this, which is common in people with diabetes.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease: Triggers chronic acid reflux and indigestion.
  • IBS: Causes stomach cramping, along with diarrhea or constipation.
  • Celiac disease: An autoimmune condition that causes symptoms in response to gluten.
  • Gallbladder conditions: Includes issues such as gallstones.
  • Pancreas conditions: Includes issues such as pancreatitis.

The diagnosis and treatment for digestive disorders vary depending on the cause. They may involve a combination of medications, dietary or lifestyle changes, or in some cases, medical procedures.

Learn more about common and uncommon digestive disorders.

Mental health conditions

Mental health and digestive health are closely linked. People with mental health conditions can experience digestive symptoms, including nausea. Similarly, stress can also exacerbate digestive conditions.

Find a comprehensive list of mental health resources here.

Inner ear conditions

The vestibular system resides in the inner ear, helping the body retain a sense of balance and know where it is relative to its surroundings. Issues with this system can cause dizziness or vertigo, which in turn causes nausea.

Conditions that may cause this include:

  • Motion sickness: Occurs in response to conflicting signals of movement sent to the brain. Riding in cars, planes, or boats often triggers this.
  • Labyrinthitis: An inner ear infection that can occur following a cold or flu.
  • Vestibular neuritis: Occurs when the nerve inside the inner ear becomes inflamed.


Nausea is a common symptom during pregnancy. It is often known as morning sickness, although it can occur anytime. It may also develop suddenly or gradually.

Pregnant people may experience nausea when around certain foods or smells or when they are hungry. Generally, morning sickness improves after 14 weeks.

Thyroid disorders

The thyroid gland controls hormones that regulate the body’s metabolism. Both overactive or underactive thyroid can cause nausea and vomiting.

Doctors often treat these conditions with medication, which can also cause nausea as a side effect.

Neurological conditions

There are many ways in which changes in the brain and nervous system can cause nausea. Scientists do not fully understand all of them yet.

One of the most common neurological conditions that triggers nausea is migraine. This is a disorder that causes episodes of moderate-to-severe headache, along with nausea, vomiting, and other symptoms.

Medication side effect

Nausea is a common side effect of many medications, including:

Medications work by changing chemical processes in the brain and body. For example, neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine, can impact nausea and vomiting, so drugs that act on these chemicals can worsen or improve these symptoms.

Medication-related nausea and vomiting can be constant or occur at random intervals. It usually starts shortly after taking a new medication. Speak with a doctor if medicines could be causing nausea.

What helps people manage nausea can vary depending on the cause. For general nausea relief, the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) suggests:

  • getting fresh air
  • eating small, frequent meals
  • staying hydrated by sipping cold drinks, such as water or juice
  • drinking ginger or peppermint tea
  • eating foods that contain ginger
  • avoiding spicy, strong-smelling, or greasy foods

People who experience nausea because of stress or anxiety may also find breathing techniques, relaxation training, or mindfulness exercises helpful.

Learn 17 ways to improve nausea at home.

If a person frequently experiences nausea for no clear reason, they can consider speaking with a doctor to determine the cause. If the cause is psychological, speaking with a therapist may help.

Nausea is not usually an emergency. However, if it occurs alongside symptoms of a serious condition or after an injury, someone may need emergency help. Dial 911 if someone experiences nausea:

  • after a recent head injury
  • alongside a severe, sudden headache
  • with neck stiffness, fever, headache, and vomiting

In some cases, nausea can be an early warning sign of a heart attack. This is more common in females, who can experience less obvious symptoms during a heart attack. Seek emergency help if someone has:

  • pain, pressure, or squeezing in the center of the chest
  • trouble breathing
  • pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, or jaw
  • lightheadedness
  • a cold sweat

Here are some frequently asked questions about nausea and vomiting.

What is the main reason for nausea?

Many conditions can cause nausea. Examples include gastrointestinal disorders, food poisoning, and the flu. Mental health conditions, neurological conditions, and some medications can also cause nausea.

How do you make nausea go away?

Steps a person can take to reduce nausea include getting fresh air, staying hydrated, avoiding spicy or greasy foods, and drinking peppermint or ginger teas.

When should I be concerned about nausea?

Most causes of nausea are not serious. A person can usually manage nausea with home remedies. However, if nausea persists or keeps coming back, it is best to contact a doctor. The doctor can ask questions about symptoms, and they may order tests to determine the underlying cause.

There are many potential causes of nausea. In most cases, it is not a sign of a serious illness. Many conditions that trigger nausea are treatable or temporary.

Speak with a doctor about chronic or recurring nausea, as there may be ways to reduce this symptom and improve quality of life.