Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy but may also be caused by radiotherapy, some medications and cancer itself.
The experience of nausea may cause sensitivity to the scent of food, perfumes and other strong smells. This sensitivity to scent may make it difficult to be around co-workers, or even to travel to and from work. Continued feeling of nausea can put the patient at risk for nutritional deficiency, which can adversely affect health and stamina. There are medications that are helpful in preventing or relieving nausea, but some of these have side effects such as headache, constipation or sleepiness all of which can also pose challenges for work.
What patients can do
There is a wide range of medications that can be helpful for this problem. Also, some non-pharmacological interventions have been shown to be beneficial, including:
- acupuncture and acupressure
- dietary changes, for example, small frequent meals, bland foods, ginger tea, etc.
- guided imagery
- music therapy
There are several ways that jobs can be modified to accommodate nausea and vomiting:
Modify work tasks and schedules:
- Work from home when possible.
- If the job requires a uniform, request alternative clothing options that do not restrict the chest or abdomen.
Modify the work environment:
- Relocate the workstation closer to the washroom.
- Request access to a private washroom, if possible.
- Request a private place to store a facecloth or wipes, mouthwash, and a toothbrush.
- Ensure comfortable temperatures using fans, portable air conditioners, humidifiers or dehumidifiers.
Control sensory input:
- Relocate the workstation away from strong odours.
- Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to limit bothersome sounds.
- Relocate the workstation to face a wall instead of a busy hallway to decrease visual input.
- Ensure lighting near the workstation is comfortable.
- Request a fragrance- and smoke-free policy in the workplace.