What are the Most Common Causes of Random Nausea?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Many things can lead to random nausea. Most commonly, nausea is the result of a stomach infection, but it can also be associated with things like hormone imbalances, sleep deprivation, brain injuries, and stress. If no obvious cause for nausea can be identified, it is advisable to see a doctor, as feeling nauseous can be a sign of a serious medical complication. A doctor can perform a workup to learn why a patient is feeling ill and develop a treatment plan for addressing the underlying cause.

Nausea is a common symptom of  stomach infection.
Nausea is a common symptom of stomach infection.

Random nausea is often associated with a stomach infection. Whether mild or severe, if bacteria, viruses, and other organisms get into the gastrointestinal tract, patients often feel sick to their stomachs. In addition, severe infections elsewhere in the body can lead to nausea. Certain medications like chemotherapy, drugs used for general anesthesia, and antibiotics can also cause random nausea. These side effects are usually disclosed ahead of time so patients know to expect them.

Emotional distress may lead to feelings of nausea.
Emotional distress may lead to feelings of nausea.

Disequilibrium associated with balance disorders can be a cause, as can fatigue, stress, or extreme emotional distress. Some people with anxiety disorders and other psychiatric conditions develop random nausea as a symptom. Hangovers, where people feel ill after drinking too much alcohol, are also associated with nausea, and people can also feel sick to their stomachs as a result of eating or drinking in excess, or not getting enough food and water. Certain conditions like diabetes are also linked with an increased risk of nausea.

Pregnant women commonly experience nausea.
Pregnant women commonly experience nausea.

Hormone imbalances such as those associated with pregnancy are linked with nausea. People with odor sensitivity can also feel sick to their stomachs when they are exposed to strong odors, and nausea can also be a symptom for people with conditions like post traumatic stress disorder. When they experience panic attacks, they can feel sick or vomit. People can also develop nausea as a result of motion sickness while traveling on cars, boats, trains, or planes, and motion sickness can onset at any time. Head injuries can also cause nausea and it may emerge minutes, hours, or even days after the initial injury.

Migraines might be the cause of random nausea.
Migraines might be the cause of random nausea.

When someone is feeling nauseous, it can help to lie down in a calm environment and drink something carbonated to settle the stomach. The cause of the random nausea should be identified to determine if more treatment is needed. Someone feeling sick after surgery, for example, just needs to rest while the body eliminates the last of the anesthesia. Someone feeling nauseous for no apparent reason might be experiencing extreme dehydration, kidney failure, or other serious medical complications that need to be treated.

Excessive eating or drinking can cause nausea.
Excessive eating or drinking can cause nausea.
Dehydration can lead to random nausea.
Dehydration can lead to random nausea.
Nausea is a sensation that generally occurs before an individual vomits.
Nausea is a sensation that generally occurs before an individual vomits.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@SZapper - I get stomach symptoms from stress too. However, in addition to random bouts of nausea, I actually sometimes get a stomachache. It really disrupts my day to day life when that happens.


I always get really nauseas if I'm nervous or upset about something. The first few times it happened to me I thought I was getting sick, but then I realized it was just nerves.

Unfortunately, I've been pretty unsuccessful at getting nausea to go away in these cases. I usually try to take a few deep breaths and calm down. However, if I can't come down I continue to feel nauseas, which usually makes me feel even worse. It's really a vicious cycle.


@KaBoom - Being nauseas is never fun, but I think dizzy nausea from a hangover is just the worst. If you're sick, usually it isn't your fault. But a hangover is completely self-induced and can easily be avoided by not drinking so much alcohol.


I did my share of drinking in college, and with that, came hangovers. Every time I had a hangover, I would get headaches, nausea, and feel really, really shaky. I never threw up though, but I usually wished I would.

I've found that usually when you're nauseas, if you throw up, you start to feel better. I never wanted to make myself throw up though, so usually I just drank water and toughed out my hangovers.

I don't drink hardly at all anymore though, so it's been awhile since I've had to deal with any hangover related nausea.


Eating saltines and drinking a cola always makes me feel better when I'm nauseated. My mother taught me this trick, and I use it every time that I feel queasy.

Of course, there are times when it won't work. If I am unable to keep anything on my stomach, then I will just vomit the crackers and cola, anyway.

When I can't eat, I try sucking on a peppermint candy. Peppermint soothes the stomach, and on more than one occasion, it has kept me from becoming nauseated any further. I believe that it can keep you from vomiting, unless you are violently ill.


I always get nauseated before I'm about to sing in front of a crowd. If it is a room full of strangers, it is even worse than singing in front of friends and family.

I performed on songwriter's night at a cafe in Nashville once, and I got so nauseated beforehand that I thought I might really throw up on stage. These musicians were all so talented, and I felt intimidated. I knew it would be different than singing back home in a bar, where no one really listens, anyway.

The nausea sometimes turns to shakiness. I have trouble holding the microphone, but I suppose it is better than being unable to hold my food!


@wavy58 - Your treatment would have made me even sicker. I have trouble tolerating many kinds of antibiotics, because they nauseate me so much.

I have taken antibiotics for strep throat before, and I totally lost my appetite. I didn't vomit, but I really felt like I could.

Antibiotics make everything I put in my mouth taste bitter and metallic. Even water tastes horrible and makes me sick at my stomach while I'm on those pills.

I always mention this to my doctor if he is about to prescribe me some. There is one type that doesn't have this effect on me, and I remind him that I need to take that kind if at all possible.


I became seriously nauseated when I had a urinary tract infection. I kept waiting for it to go away on its own, but instead, it worsened and developed into a kidney infection.

I started having lower back pain, and I woke up one morning feeling incredibly nauseated. I vomited a few minutes later, and I knew I needed to see a doctor.

He told me that since I hadn't sought out treatment right away, the infection had traveled up to my kidneys. He gave me some strong antibiotics and steroids and sent me on my way. I got better in a few days.

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