Nausea With or Without Vomiting

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: December 2019

People living with migraine disease often experience nausea, an uneasy, queasy feeling or discomfort in the stomach. Nausea with or without vomiting is one of the key symptoms that people report during migraine. It can be severe enough to limit activity in some people.

Nausea can occur by itself or it may cause vomiting. Sometimes migraine symptoms like nausea or vomiting can be more debilitating than migraine head pain.

What are nausea and vomiting?

Roughly 73 percent of people living with migraine experience nausea, and about 29 percent of those living with migraine experience vomiting.1 Symptoms like these may decrease quality of life and add to the severity of the migraine experience.

Often those who experience nausea or vomiting will avoid taking migraine medication when needed because they don’t want to throw it back up or are too nauseous to drink anything. This can delay relief and makes the migraine harder to treat.1

Why do nausea and vomiting occur with migraine?

Because the underlying cause of migraine is largely unknown, there are no definite reasons why nausea and vomiting are common symptoms. Nausea and vomiting sometimes occur along with vertigo or dizziness, which may be linked to brain and inner ear disturbances.

Before, during, and after migraine, people often perceive their senses differently. One person with migraine might become hypersensitive to sounds or light, finding normal sound and light too loud or too bright. Familiar smells might be suddenly nauseating.2

People with migraine whose symptoms are mostly related to nausea, vomiting, and other stomach discomforts, may be diagnosed with abdominal migraine.

What is abdominal migraine?

More common in children, abdominal migraine causes abdominal pain that usually lasts from 2 to 72 hours.3 Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, warm flushes and loss of appetite. Children with abdominal migraine are more likely to experience migraine with head pain as adults.3

How is migraine nausea and/or vomiting treated?

Treating the migraine attack itself often helps to relieve its symptoms. Anti-nausea drugs can also be taken if the migraine comes with nausea or vomiting. These drugs can include chlorpromazine, metoclopramide (brand name Reglan), or prochlorperazine (Compro).4 These drugs will need to be prescribed by a doctor.

Acupressure and acupuncture may be effective in relieving migraine-related nausea and vomiting in some people.5

Tracking your migraine symptoms

Keeping a record of your migraine symptoms may help you figure out patterns and triggers to your attacks. It may be helpful to record such things as:

  • When and where your pain or symptoms start
  • Whether the pain spreads to your entire head or neck
  • How well and how quickly acute treatment helps reduce the pain or other symptoms
  • How long your pain or symptoms last
  • Whether you experience other symptoms such as vision changes, nausea, or light sensitivity

Community experiences of migraine and nausea advocates often write about their experiences with nausea and vomiting. In this video, one advocate shares tips on how to handle nausea without medications. There are additional tips for nausea including facing migraine's nausea and dealing with bouts of nausea without head pain. Here are some suggestions on what to eat when you're nauseated.

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