• suffering from disease or illness; unwell; ill: in this sense, now rare or literary in England
  • having nausea; about to vomit or in the act of vomiting: the predominant sense in England
  • characteristic of or accompanying sickness: a sick expression
  • of or for sick people: sick leave
  • deeply disturbed or distressed; extremely upset, as by grief, disappointment, disgust, failure, etc.
  • disgusted by reason of excess; annoyed or exasperated: usually with of: sick of such excuses
  • often sick and tired
  • in poor condition; impaired; unsound
  • having a great longing or nostalgia (for): sick for the hills
  • of sickly color; pale
  • having a discharge of the menses; menstruating
  • mentally ill or emotionally disturbed
  • INFORMALsadistic, morbid, or abnormally unwholesome: a sick joke
  • AGRIC.
  • incapable of producing an adequate yield of a certain crop: wheatsick soil
  • infested with harmful microorganisms: a sick field

No health feed found.


Both pleasant and unpleasant smells can trigger sickness. You might find that it helps to remove strong smelling flowers from around you. Or, you could ask friends and relatives not to wear perfume.

Try eating cold foods if the smell of food makes you feel sick. Or get someone else to cook for you if you can.


The taste of some foods and drinks may make you feel or be sick. Strong tastes may be troublesome. You might find it helps to stick to bland foods. Your taste could be affected if sickness is related to your treatment. This usually gets better after treatment has finished.

Some people avoid their favourite foods and drinks during treatment periods in case they are put off them for good. Other people find that they start to like foods they have always disliked.

Anxiety, fear and depression

These feelings are very common in people with cancer. Up to 1 in 4 people (up to 25%) with cancer become depressed.

Feeling very frightened, anxious or depressed can affect the way your body works and may make you feel or be sick. Discuss your feelings with your doctor or specialist nurse as they can help you with your anxiety or depression.


Being in a lot of pain can also make you feel or be sick. The sickness will go away when you treat the pain. 

Movement or travel

Motion sickness (travel sickness) happens when the messages your brain receives from your eyes do not match those from the balance centre in your ear.

This confusion can trigger the vomiting centre in your brain and make you feel or be sick. It often helps to face forward in the vehicle and look out of the window at a fixed point on the horizon.

You can get drugs to prevent motion sickness on prescription from your GP and over the counter from the chemist.

Infections and food poisoning

An infection can make you feel or be sick. The sickness will usually stop when the infection is treated.

Infections picked up from food (food poisoning) usually last between 24 and 48 hours (1 to 2 full days). It is important to see your doctor if your sickness lasts for longer.


Many of us have had that feeling of being so hungry you feel sick. Try to avoid this by eating small meals at regular times and by drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water each day.

Bowel problems

Both constipation and diarrhoea can make you feel or be sick. Treating the cause will reduce the sickness. 


Little is known about the long-term consequences of sickness presence (ie, going to work despite ill-health), although one study suggests an association with coronary heart disease. This study examined the effect of sickness presence on future long-term sickness absence.

Sickness presence is associated with long-term sickness absence of at least 2 weeks' duration as well as with spells lasting at least 2 months. Participants who had gone to work ill more than six times in the year prior to baseline had a 74% higher risk of becoming sick-listed for more than 2 months, even when controlling for a wide range of potential confounders as well as baseline health status and previous long-term sickness absence. The association was consistent for most subgroups of employees reporting various symptoms, but either disappeared or became insignificant when analysing subgroups of employees with specific chronic diseases.

A person with anxiety may feel nauseous, or they may find that they get sick more often because their anxiety weakens their immune responses.

Other symptoms of anxiety include:

  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • feeling dizzy
  • increased heart rate
  • shaking or trembling
  • avoiding certain situations

Chronic stress

Experiencing stress here and there is completely normal, but continual stress can greatly impact the mind and body.

Extreme stress, such as that caused by grief, shock, or traumatic experiences can also affect people physically.

People with chronic or extreme stress can have many different symptoms, as stress affects the immune system, nervous system, hormones, and heart functioning.

Other symptoms of chronic stress can include:

  • a lack of energy
  • digestive problems, such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and constipation
  • insomnia, or difficulty sleeping
  • anxiety
  • muscle pain or stiffness
  • headaches
  • more frequent infections, such as colds, flu, and urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • reduced desire to engage in social activities or settings

Lack of sleep

Proper, regular sleep is important for mental and physical health. When someone is chronically sleep-deprived, they may feel sick all the time.

Many chronic medical conditions can interfere with sleep, usually intensifying the symptoms of both conditions.

Common symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation, or a lack of adequate sleep, include:

  • daytime sleepiness
  • general fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
  • irritability and anxiety
  • more frequent infections and longer healing time
  • depression

Poor diet and dehydration

Dehydration and malnutrition, or having a poor diet, both put stress on the body. A chronic lack of proper nutrients and hydration can cause many problems, including:

  • chronic fatigue and weakness
  • dizziness or light-headedness
  • difficulty concentrating
  • poor immune health and extended healing time
  • weight loss

Poor hygiene

Poor physical hygiene, especially oral, can cause a variety of symptoms that could make someone feel sick all of the time. Poor hygiene makes it easier for bacteria to grow and thrive, which can result in infection.

The skin is the body's natural barrier to things that can cause infection, such as bacteria and viruses.

Washing the body, and keeping clothes and bedding clean can help to keep bacteria out, and keep natural, healthy bacterial communities in check.

People have a lot of blood vessels in their gums. This blood supply means that chronic, untreated gum infections can spread through the body. Severe gum disease has also been linked to several medical conditions.

Alcohol, caffeine, drugs, or medications

Alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs, and many prescription medications are known to interfere with sleep, which can lead to a general feeling of being unwell.

An overuse, or long-term use, of chemicals that act as stimulants or depressants, can cause certain mental and physical changes

Immune conditions

Autoimmune conditions weaken the immune system and make it easier to develop infections, colds, and flu. This means that people with chronic immune conditions tend to feel sick more often and may take longer to recover from illnesses.

Common immune conditions that can make people feel sick all the time include:

  • lupus
  • HIV
  • celiac disease
  • inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
  • asthma
  • arthritis
  • allergies
  • type 1 diabetes
  • multiple sclerosis
  • Graves' disease

Autoimmune conditions cause many symptoms, including fatigue, rashes, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems.

When headache plus one other symptom occur within 24 to 48 hours of changing elevation, sickness should be considered. Most experienced climbers recognize the symptoms in people who are experiencing mild to moderate sickness.

In cases of severe sickness, a doctor will make the diagnosis based on signs, symptoms and the situation (the person was at a high altitude). The doctor may listen to the chest with a stethoscope or take a chest X-ray to determine whether there is any fluid in the chest. In the most severe cases, a doctor may order a brain MRI or CT scan to check for fluid in the brain.

Anxiety and anxiety disorders are very treatable. Possible options include:

  • Resolving the cause of anxiety, which may be lifestyle factors, relationships, drugs, or alcohol.
  • Psychotherapy or talking therapies, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT).
  • Talking to a doctor and taking medications, such as beta-blockers.

The only definite way to treat chronic stress is to address and change the underlying cause. However, several lifestyle habits can greatly reduce stress and its symptoms.

Many traditional and alternative therapies exist to help manage or alleviate stress.

Good ways for someone to treat their stress include:

  • Resolving the sources of conflict that is causing their upsets.
  • Doing regular exercise as often as they can.
  • Spending a decent amount of time outdoors.
  • Practicing exercises for mindfulness and stress release, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and guided visualization.
  • Avoiding bringing job issues or unfinished work home, and avoiding taking home-related issues to work.
  • Getting a stress-releasing hobby, especially one that promotes creativity, such as drawing, writing, painting, or music.
  • Asking for support and understanding from family and friends.
  • Seeking help from a mental health professional.

Common ways to improve sleep deprivation include:

  • set a sleep and wake schedule, and stick to it, even on the weekends
  • remove any sources of distraction from the bedroom, such as electronics
  • seek treatment for conditions that hinder proper sleep, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, and chronic pain
  • avoid energy drinks and too much caffeine
  • relax before bed with yoga, meditation, a warm bath, or a book

Recommendations for daily water intake differ, depending on a person's age, sex, pregnancy status, and illness. It is often said that most people should drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of water daily.

If a person suspects they are dehydrated, they should visit their doctor to find out the best treatments.

To treat and prevent malnutrition, people should eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in foods, including:

  • whole grains
  • whole fruits and vegetables
  • pulses, such as dry beans, lentils, and chickpeas
  • healthy fats, such as in fatty fishes, virgin olive oil, most nuts, whole eggs, avocados, and dark chocolate

Regular washing of the body, clothes, and bedding should help treat and prevent most infections related to poor hygiene. And practicing oral hygiene habits can help treat, and greatly reduce the likelihood of developing gum infections and disease.

Good oral hygiene habits include:

  • brushing at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and flossing regularly
  • having regular dental check-ups and cleanings
  • quitting smoking or using tobacco products
  • avoiding sugary foods and drinks

A person should avoid drinks, foods, and drugs with these chemicals in them, especially in the evening or before bedtime. It is important to remember that caffeine and sugar can have a strong effect on how a person feels.

When someone's symptoms are caused by prescription medication, they should speak to their doctor to find an alternative.

The only way to treat symptoms related to an autoimmune condition is to seek medical treatment and monitoring for the condition.

  • Avoid close contact.

    Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

  • Stay home when you are sick.
    If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
  • Cover your mouth and nose.
    Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands.
  • Clean your hands.
    Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
    Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

  • Practice other good health habits.
    Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

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