Nausea is a distressful or queasy feeling in the stomach, which may be accompanied by a strong urge to throw up. It can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from transient to serious.

Young children are most likely to get an upset stomach due to a viral or bacterial infection, gastroesophageal reflux disease (heartburn), gastritis, foods or medications, says Marsha Kay, M.D., section head of the Department of Pediatric Gastroenterology at the Cleveland Clinic.

If a child’s nausea occurs with other symptoms – such as vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain or fever – parents should contact their medical professional. “Even if you just think a child doesn’t look well, that’s a sign to contact your pediatrician,” Kay says.

Here are the likely causes of nausea among both children and adults:

• Motion sickness, or kinetosis, which may occur in moving vehicles, boats or planes but can also be caused by viewing virtual movement during a film or video game

• Overeating (or, in the case of an infant, overfeeding)

• Foods that are spicy, acidic, or otherwise disagree with you

• Food allergy, caused by an adverse immune response to foods (such as milk or wheat)

• Food poisoning from tainted foods

• Medication for various conditions

• Emotional stress, including fear, anxiety or panic

• Disagreeable odors

• Pain, including migraine headache

• Gastroesophageal reflux disease, often accompanied by heartburn, produced when stomach acid reaches the esophagus

• Gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining sometimes caused by alcohol consumption, NSAID medications or Crohn’s disease

• Vomiting, induced by sickness, medication or bulimia

• A virus, including influenza

• Stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, an irritation or inflammation of the stomach lining or intestines often caused by a virus or bacterial infection

• Peptic ulcer, an erosion of the gastrointestinal tract

• Appendicitis

• Bowel obstruction

• Gallstone

• Dehydration or heat stroke

• Gallbladder disease

• Heart attack

• Brain injury

• Cancer or cancer treatment

• Gastroparesis, in which the stomach fails to empty properly (often associated with diabetes)

• Blood sugar imbalance, either abnormally high or abnormally low (also associated with diabetes)

• Morning sickness, usually caused by increased estrogen levels during the early stages of pregnancy (which may also occur later in the day) 


Find out what’s to blame.

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