Nausea: Causes

By McBratney, Susan, PhD
By Spader, Catherine, RN

What causes nausea?

Conditions that are known to cause nausea include infection, poisoning, malignancy (cancer), inflammation, trauma, obstruction, and other abnormal processes within the digestive, nervous, reproductive, cardiovascular, or endocrine systems.

Gastrointestinal causes of nausea

Nausea may arise from problems in the digestive tract including:

Other causes of nausea

Nausea can also be caused by problems in body systems other than the digestive tract including:

  • Altitude sickness or motion sickness

  • Cancer and chemotherapy treatments

  • Concussion

  • Electrolyte imbalance

  • Exposure to smoke or toxic fumes or substances

  • Heat exhaustion

  • Medication side effects

  • Meniere’s disease

  • Migraine

  • Pregnancy or morning sickness

  • Stress or anxiety

  • Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes

  • Vertigo and labyrinthitis

Life-threatening causes of nausea

In some cases, nausea may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting.

Call your doctor or poison-control hotline immediately or take the child to an emergency care facility if you suspect poisoning or drug ingestion.

What are the potential complications of nausea?

Left untreated, nausea can lead to serious complications including:

  • Dehydration due to a decreased desire to drink or ability to hold fluids

  • Poor nutrition due to a decreased desire to eat


  1. Nausea. Women’s Health.
  2. Nausea and vomiting – adults. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.
  3. Vomiting. Nemours.

What is nausea?

Nausea is a very common symptom that is often described as a feeling of queasiness or wooziness, or a need to vomit. Nausea accompanies a wide variety of mild to serious infections, diseases, conditions, and injuries, and it occurs in all age groups and populations.

... Read more about nauseaintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with nausea?

Nausea may be accompanied by other symptoms depending on the underlying disease, disorder, or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the digestive tract may also involve other body systems. 

Digestive symptoms that may occur along with nausea

Nausea may accompany other symptoms affecting the digestive tract including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

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