The prescription anti-nausea medication Ondansetron (Zofran) is the first line drug for nausea in the emergency department (ED) for non-cancer patients. Now, an alternative option, inhaled isopropyl alcohol, has shown promise. Yes, this is your typical rubbing alcolhol that you may have in your bathroom cabinet.
A recent trial involved 120 ED adult patients with nausea and vomiting who did not need IV (intravenous) medications or fluids. They were randomized to receive inhaled isopropyl alcohol in the form of alcohol swabs plus 4 mg of oral ondansetron, inhaled isopropyl alcohol plus an oral placebo, or inhaled saline plus 4 mg oral ondansetron. Patients could sniff the alcohol or saline repeatedly.
Results showed a significant decrease in nausea in the alcolhol/ondansetron and alcohol/placebo groups than in the saline/ondansetron group. Patients in the alcohol groups also had better nausea control at the time of discharge.
For patients who do not require IV therapy, consider repeated inhalations of isopropyl alcohol swabs (which you can buy at your local pharmacy). We don’t know the mechanism of action, but it is simple and safe to try. Call your doctor or get to the ED if your symptoms worsen. And maybe don’t eat the old leftovers in the frig next time…
Reference: April MD et al. Aromatherapy vs oral ondansetron for antiemetic therapy among adult emergency department patients. A randomized control trial. Ann Emerg Med 2018 Aug; 72-:184.
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