How do you take anti sickness medicines?

There are different ways of having anti sickness medicines. Sometimes you have medicines to swallow, but this isn’t always possible.

Ways of taking anti sickness medicines

The easiest way to take any drug is by swallowing a tablet or liquid medicine. But, if the drug you need can't be swallowed or because you have difficulty swallowing for some reason, this isn't possible.

When you are feeling sick, it can be very difficult to take medicines by mouth (orally). And there is the added problem that if you are sick after you've taken it, you don't always know whether you've brought it up or not.

With cancer drug treatment, you usually have anti sickness medicines as injections with the treatment and then anti sickness tablets to take home with you afterwards.

Problems swallowing medicines

You could have your medicines by injection or through a drip if you are in hospital and are having problems with swallowing medicines. Drugs given by an injection usually work very quickly.

An injection into a vein is called an intravenous injection (IV). You have the injection through a small tube (cannula) put into a vein in one of your arms. This can stay in for a few days if needed.

Diagram showing a cannula

You can have anti sickness drugs through your central line, if you have one. A central line is a long flexible plastic tube. These are called central lines because they end up in a central blood vessel in your chest, close to your heart.


Diagram showing a central line

Having anti sickness drugs at home

Speak to your doctor or nurse if you are at home and tablets are causing you problems. They might suggest:

  • a tablet you can dissolve under your tongue to get a drug into your bloodstream very quickly
  • a patch that sticks on your skin like a plaster, the drug slowly passes through your skin into your body
  • a syringe pump to give a continuous slow infusion of anti sickness drugs

Anti sickness medicines that can be given through a syringe pump include:

  • metoclopramide
  • haloperidol
  • ondansetron
  • levomepromazine
  • cyclizine

Your district nurse can also give you injections of anti sickness medicine into the layer of fat just under your skin, once or twice a day. This is also called a subcutaneous injection.

Or you can have the medicine through a small plastic tube taped to the skin, so you don't have to have an injection under your skin each time.

  • DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg's Cancer: Principles & Practice of Oncology (12th edition)
    VT DeVita, SA Rosenberg and TS Lawrence

    Wolters Kluwer, 2023

  • Electronic Medicines Compendium

    Accessed August 2023

  • 2016 MASCC and ESMO guideline update for the prevention of chemotherapy- and radiotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting and of nausea and vomiting in advanced cancer patients
    F Rolia and others
    Annals of Oncology, 2016. Volume 27, Supplement 5

Last reviewed: 
16 Aug 2023
Next review due: 
16 Aug 2026

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