Olfactory Distraction for Management of Nausea in Palliative Care Patients

Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2022 Mar;39(3):388-393. doi: 10.1177/10499091211015957. Epub 2021 May 6.


Nausea is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms Palliative Care patients experience. This can be caused by the life-limiting illness itself, its complications, or its treatments. While there are many options for management, including anti-emetics and motility agents, patients may develop refractory nausea or even intolerance to these treatments. Drug interactions, sedation, extrapyramidal effects, serotonin syndrome, and prolonged QT intervals with risk factors for Torsades de Pointes may all preclude use of these medications. Olfactory distraction using alcohol swabs has supporting literature in the emergency care setting as a means of alleviating nausea in a safe and effective way. We present a case series of 3 patients admitted to a Northwell facility who were referred to the Palliative Care consult service for severe nausea. The patients had nausea of varying etiology and were successfully managed with inhalation of alcohol swabs. This is the first case series that looks into applying this intervention to the Palliative Care population as an easy-to-use, readily-available, and safe method to manage nausea.

Keywords: anti-emetics; isopropyl alcohol swabs; nausea; olfactory distraction; vomiting.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Antiemetics* / therapeutic use
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Nausea / etiology
  • Nausea / therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Vomiting / therapy


  • Antiemetics