Nausea and vomiting are common side effects of chemotherapy but may also be caused by radiotherapy, some medications and cancer itself1.
The experience of nausea may make you sensitive 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. If you feel nauseated, you may be at risk for nutritional deficiency, which can adversely affect your health and stamina. There are medications that are helpful in preventing or relieving nausea, but some of these have side effects such as a headache, constipation or sleepiness and these can also pose challenges for work.
What you can do
Talk to your healthcare team if you are experiencing nausea and/or vomiting. 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 acupressure2
- dietary changes, for example, small frequent meals, bland foods, ginger tea, etc.
- guided imagery
- music therapy3
Here are some other tips for managing nausea:
Nausea and Vomiting (BC Cancer Agency)
How to Manage Your Nausea and Vomiting (PDF; Cancer Care Ontario)
Nutritional Management of Nausea During Cancer Treatment (Christy Brissette, MSc, RD, Oncology Dietitian, 80 Twenty Nutrition)
Modify your work tasks and how you work:
- Work from home when possible.
- Wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing. If your work requires a uniform, request alternative clothing options that do not restrict your chest or abdomen.
- Learn deep breathing techniques and apply these when experiencing nausea. Incorporate relaxation into your breaks—with or without an audio guide.
Modify your work environment:
- Relocate your workstation closer to the washroom. Request access to a washroom that is used only by yourself if possible.
- Request a private place to store a facecloth or wipes, mouthwash, and a toothbrush.
- Modify your workstation temperature: consider using fans, portable air conditioners or humidifiers/de-humidifiers for comfort.
- Relocate your workstation away from strong odours.
Control sensory input:
- Use noise-cancelling headphones or earplugs to limit bothersome sounds.
- Work facing a wall instead of a busy hallway to decrease visual input.
- Optimize the lighting in your environment to your comfort.
- Request that your workplace abides by a fragrance- and smoke-free policy.