The importance of keeping hydrated when experiencing nausea or vomiting

When you’re feeling nauseous, or experiencing vomiting, often the last thing you feel like doing is eating or drinking. However, it’s more important than ever that you stay hydrated when you’re sick, as your body will need fluids to help flush out your system and replace lost water and salts.

Mild dehydration is common during illnesses such as colds and flu, and other things that can affect your ability to keep liquids down include migraine headaches and motion sickness. Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) and food poisoning are other culprits and can simultaneously make you lose fluids while making it hard to take on fluids due to nausea. 1

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Take it slow


If you can’t handle the thought of glugging a large glass of plain water, then take things slowly. Take small sips and wait a few minutes for the liquid to settle in your stomach before taking another sip.

You could even use a tablespoon to take small amounts if you’re feeling really sick. You might find that lukewarm or warm water goes down easier than cold – alternately you might find iced water more palatable.

How to get your fluids

Choose fluids that ease nausea as well as keeping you hydrated where possible. Ginger has been shown to help relieve nausea in several clinical studies,2 so why not incorporate it into a drink for a natural sickness remedy that’s also hydrating? Ginger tea is easy to make at home using fresh grated ginger root and hot water, or you could drink carbonated ginger ale instead. The bubbles in fizzy drinks help some people with relieving nausea.3 Lemonade is another good option, although don’t drink too many fizzy drinks as the gas might make any bloating worse, and try to avoid anything caffeinated as this may act as a diuretic. Mint tea is another good option, as peppermint oil is an anti-spasmodic which has been shown to help soothe gastrointestinal discomfort.4 Plus, the act of drinking a warm cup of tea might have a calming effect overall which could ease nausea.

Don’t forget that fruits and vegetables usually have high water content and might be more appealing than drinks when you’re feeling sick. If you can stomach them, try nibbling a few grapes, or a slice of watermelon to keep your fluid levels topped up.

Also, if you can face savoury food, plain homemade soups and broths are very comforting and soothing as well as hydrating. Watch out for tinned soups, though, as the salt content is often far too high and can dehydrate you further.

As always, if your symptoms are severe, you have a high fever or you’re unable to take on fluids for an extended period of time, seek medical attention immediately as severe dehydration has serious health consequences.

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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources

  1. [Online] https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/stomach-liver-and-gastrointestinal-tract/gastroenteritis.
  2. [Online] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4818021/.
  3. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/feeling-sick-nausea/.
  4. [Online] https://www.nhs.uk/news/medication/peppermint-does-soothe-ibs/.
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