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What are the Different Types of Anti-Nausea Medications?

By Helena Reimer
Updated Feb 15, 2024
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There are several different types of anti-nausea medications, which are often referred to as antiemetics. They are divided into groups, and each group has a slightly different method of relieving nausea. Some work to block the receptors in the stomach, others block the signal in the brain, and still others help to empty the bowels. The medications are available in pills, capsules, liquids, injections or a suppository.

People who are suffering from morning sickness, motion sickness or night nausea can find relief with anti-nausea medications. Not only do they help to relieve nausea, the sedating effect of some drugs can also help individuals to fall asleep sooner. Others are helpful in reducing the nausea caused by bowel obstructions and other digestive problems. Cancer tumors and other diseases might also contribute to nausea, which can be treated with anti-nausea medications.

The most common type of anti-nausea medications are the 5-HT3 receptor antagonists, also known as serotonin blockers. These help to block the serotonin receptors in the stomach that send the vomiting signal to the brain. They are particularly helpful for stopping nausea in patients who have had surgery or are on cytotoxic drugs. Cytotoxic drugs have a toxic effect on the body and are often used in chemotherapy treatment.

Dopamine antagonists block the vomit area in the brain. They can help to stop nausea that results from radiation, cytotoxic drugs, anesthetics and certain painkillers such as opioids. Anti-nausea medications that help the stomach empty its contents are beneficial when the nausea is caused by digestive problems, because they can help solve the root of the problem. Nausea that results from motion sickness, vertigo or morning sickness caused by pregnancy, might be helped by antihistamine antiemetics. Cannabis, also known as medicinal marijuana, might be used in severe cases when other anti-nausea medications do not work.

These medications are available in different forms to help individuals who have different needs. For example, in a severe case of nausea, swallowing a pill may not be feasible for the patient. Thus a pill that can be absorbed into the bloodstream from under the tongue, an injection or a suppository will help to make it easier on the patient. There are several anti-nausea medications that can be purchased without a prescription, but others cannot be obtained unless prescribed by a medical professional. Side effects of anti-nausea medications include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, headaches, fatigue, drowsiness and dry mouth.

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Discussion Comments
By browncoat — On Mar 07, 2012

Every time I need to go on a boat ride, I convince myself I'm not going to get sick and every time I do get sick. I've always hoped that it would be something that I grow out of but I never have. I guess my inner ear is not shaped that way.

The difficult part is remembering to take the nausea medicine in time. If you don't take it at least three hours before your trip, it doesn't work.

Since the trip I'm usually taking is about three hours long, simply forgetting the medicine beforehand has made me miserable more than once.

By irontoenail — On Mar 07, 2012

@Mor - I don't know, I think your mother has a point in some ways. I don't like to take in any medications that I don't have to, just because they do so much to your body. You are taking a risk whenever you have them. You might have developed an allergy, or be affecting your liver.

And I'm pretty sure it was an anti nausea medicine which caused birth defects in a lot of children a few decades ago.

Granted, the safety standards of medications have changed since then, but I'd still be extremely cautious with that kind of thing, particularly if I was pregnant. You never know when something will react badly and make you sick.

On the other hand, I've known women who were so sick with their pregnancies that taking anti nausea medicine was the only way to get through it. So, you just have to weigh the risks and benefits, in the end.

By Mor — On Mar 06, 2012

Anti nausea drugs are one of those medications that I often have arguments with my mother about.

She's anti taking any "unnecessary" medications. She has small airwaves disease so she often coughs enough to make herself vomit and usually feels sick for a few days afterwards, particularly if she is extremely stressed.

I think because she still feels queasy she'll often prolong her vomiting, whereas if she took medicine to make herself feel better, she'd stop it sooner.

She thinks because she's only treating a symptom, it's not worth it. But, often the symptoms make you so uncomfortable that they can keep the whole thing going, even when the underlying cause has gone away.

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