Tips for Managing Your Child’s Treatment-Related Nausea

Medically reviewed by Kristen Uhl, PhD

Treatment-induced nausea is an unpleasant side effect that can occur before, during, or after cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. Antiemetic medications are typically used to treat nausea and vomiting, but there are other strategies that can help.

Kristen Uhl, PhD, of Pediatric Psychosocial Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, specializes in pediatric pain management and coping with chronic illness. She recommends trying the following strategies with your child to help alleviate nausea.

Lifestyle changes

Drier foods, like crackers, can help alleviate nausea and vomiting.
  • Eat small meals throughout the day, about every 3 hours
  • Choose cold or room-temperature foods
  • Try drier foods (like crackers, pretzels, or cereal)
  • Avoid spicy, sweet, or greasy foods
  • Stay away from foods with strong smells
  • Avoid lying down immediately after meals
  • Drink clear fluids between meals

Relaxation techniques

  • Try belly breathing (diaphragmatic breathing)
  • Try guided imagery, which promotes relaxation by focusing on memories, dreams or fantasies to refocus attention away from a stressful situation. A clinician has the patient choose a meaningful image or idea. During a 10- to 20-minute session, the patient is guided to hear, see, taste, smell, touch, or move while thinking about an imagined activity.
  • Use progressive muscle relaxation
  • Consider hypnosis
  • Try biofeedback
  • Download phone (or tablet) relaxation apps

Complimentary strategies

Parents Together is a new group series from the Department of Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care (POPC) that helps parents manage the challenges many families face after a child’s diagnosis. Created and overseen by Larissa Hewitt, LICSW, and Anna (Nina) C. Muriel, MD, Parents Together offers educational and supportive resources for parents to develop a toolbox of practical coping skills while connecting with others who understand.