Anticipatory Nausea

Anticipatory nausea occurs before treatment as a response to other triggers in the environment (such as, certain objects, odors, or tastes). Some people experience anticipatory nausea even before leaving for treatment. This is a conditioned reflex (a response to earlier stimulus) than can happen repeatedly, each time a person faces the situation that triggers the reflex. For example, a person who begins chemotherapy and smells an alcohol swab at the same time, may later experience nausea at the smell of alcohol alone.


 I was trying to explain to my doctor about my nausea and gagging that I have been experiencing. He said “Yes that’s anticipatory nausea”. Um never heard of it! I have medication to help with it now, but I still experience it. I never know when it’s going to hit me.  Last week when I was getting ready to go to chemo I had a really hard time. As I picked up the bag that I take with me to chemo every time I go I gagged over and over again. If I get into my husbands car even if I am just going to the store. I gag over and over. (we always take his car to my treatments) Another trigger for me is anything that smells sterile. The smell of antibacterial hand sanitizer particularly gets me going. It just takes over and I have to control it with deep breathing and small sips of water. For me though it is not just my chemo treatments that trigger the nausea and gagging. It is a list of things, the smell of dog food, raw meats, the smell of our garage, the smell of Dove soap. The list goes on I will not bore you with it.


It seems to be getting better as I get through my treatments. The farther away from my AC treatments I get the less I experience it. But this has been the one thing that has bothered me the most through my chemotherapy. I guess I should not complain. I have pretty much sailed through chemo with no really big problems. I really was not prepared for it though. So I thought I would share it with all of you. Hopefully my experience will help someone out.


7 Responses to Anticipatory Nausea

  1. bcjenster says:

    My mother-in-law bought me Philosophy body wash and lotion while I was going through chemo. To this day I can’t smell it without feeling queazy. And I never was sich with chemo.

    By the same token, whenever I smell a combination of cigar smoke and diesel (not very often) it makes me think of Disneyland. lol

    It’s not something you really think about beforehand, though, is it? I’d have liked it if someone had told me.

  2. jillaldrich says:

    After chemo, the only thing-at all-that sounded good to me was cantaloupe. Reminded me of my morning-sickness diet, which consisted of three things: Cherrios, 7-Up, Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup. I hope you get through chemo soon and that all the scents in your world will be lovely ones (hardly likely, though, since you have kids, lol!)

  3. throwslikeagirl74 says:

    Ick. For me it’s the saline that they use to flush my port. I have to pop a candy in. That and the smell of my MIL’s car (I will NEVER tell her that). She’s been so great with taking me to chemo, but her car makes me gag.

  4. sprucehillfarm says:

    Ewww I hate the saline too. I always get that icky taste in my mouth. Mints are my standby.

  5. laurie says:

    “Anticipatory Nausea!” Yes! Thanks for sharing this. Now I have a name for what I experience in some form ever time!

  6. rachel says:

    You know what sucks? I had anticipatory nausea too. I have been done with chemo for nine months now, and I’m planning on going back to school for nursing, because I want to work in oncology, so I shadowed a nurse today at the cancer center where I had my treatment. Even though I’m better and my port is gone and I knew that I wasn’t there to get treatment, the smell of that antibacterial hand sanitizer STILL made me feel sick. It wasn’t to the point where I actually got sick, but it’s so annoying…I found your site because I was using Google to see if there’s anything I can do to make it go away!

  7. I was just “diagnosed” with anticipatory nausea today. I wanted to rip the port line out and go running for the door. I tried to calm myself, and am usually successful, but this time, nope. I wonder how long after treatments end, if and when this will go away completely.

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