Raise your hand if you’ve never been seasick. If you lifted your arm, then chances are that you a) are extremely lucky, b) don’t have much sailing experience, c) are very likely to be seasick one day in the future or d) are simply a liar. Seasickness –or more generically motion sickness– is a condition that affects both professional sailors and people that are new at sea. Actually, you don’t need to be at sea to experience it. Many people get seasick with the motion of cars, buses or even trains! Its symptoms –typically nausea, vomiting and dizziness– can really turn a lovely day into a truly terrible experience. Even more important, if you play a central role onboard (for example, if you are the skipper), being seasick can pose serious threats to the safety of the of the crew (and obviously yours!).
Research states that at least 90% of sailors have suffered from seasickness. Yet, these seafarers still voyage on into the rarely calm waters. So what? Maybe you're thinking of going for a vacation, or you're probably learning how to sail. But, how do you deal with the motion sickness that keeps ruining your plans?
Before we look into that, let us deal with the root cause of seasickness. Seasickness occurs when there is a mismatch between your senses. In other words, motion sickness occurs when part of your senses, such as your ears, sense that you are moving. However, the other senses, such as your eyes, do not sense that movement, hence the mismatch.
Seasickness is what most people term as an old age affliction. In other words, the condition has been troubling humans since the beginning of our race. Yet, it is safe to say that there are a few tips that are really helpful to prevent motion sickness. Let’s take a look at some of them.
What To Eat
This is a preventive remedy that many sailors can swear by. Ginger has proven its effectiveness through the ages of sailing. Also, ginger adds a few complimentary and healthy minerals to the body. Recent studies indicated that ginger does contribute to the reduction of seasickness. Available in so many forms (such as raw, biscuits, crystalised sweets, pills, tablets, capsules or even soft drinks), ginger is usually one of the preferred remedies for seasickness. And if it doesn’t work for you, at least you can enjoy its lovely flavour!
Coke, grapefruit juice and lime juice are also said to be great remedies as well but don’t quote me on that, as I have never tried them. Stock up on chewing gum, which helps combat both sea- and carsickness. Many will not like this advice, but you should avoid drinking alcohol, especially the night before departure or sailing practice.
A friend of mine who is particularly prone to seasickness once told me that eating and drinking water before departure really helps prevent his seasickness. However, avoid greasy food, as they may cause indigestion, hence exacebating the already nasty symptoms of seasickness.
A Breath of Fresh Air
The importance of fresh air cannot be underestimated. Strong smells such as spices or perfume will have your head over a bucket in minutes. Ensure that you get constant air circulation on your face for freshness.
Stay on deck and breathe in the fresh air, and focus on the horizon. This way, your sensory nerves will not have a mismatch. Your ears will recognize the motion, and so will your eyes.
When I say stay busy, I mean anything other than reading a book. For some reason, reading or doing anything that requires near-focus observation only makes things worse. Try and concentrate on something that will keep your mind off seasickness.
This is what helps sailors deal with seasickness. They are always busy on deck to even notice the troubling weather or unsettling motions. So keep yourself busy and make yourself useful on deck. Even if it means helping out with the steering. Steering while seasick may at first sound like a challenge to be avoided, but it is in fact one of the best remedies for seasickness. We call it the helm doctor!
Do seasickness wristbands work?
This is a rather controversial topic. Some manufacturers say they are clinically tested, but it is unclear what exactly this means. Some health institutions such as the UK’s NHS state that there is little scientific evidence to prove their effectiveness. Many people will swear by wristbands’ ability to ward off seasickness. Others will dismiss it as a complete rip-off. In between the two extremes, there are, well… most of us who are not completely convinced but will use them anyway, just in case. As they are inexpensive and have no side effects, they are worth a try.
Motion sickness wristbands are based on the principle of acupressure/acupuncture. Inside the band, a small element applies a constant pressure to a particular acupressure point. This arguably disrupts the neural signal responsible for seasickness.
The Use of Medications
Before purchasing any form of drug to help deal with seasickness, consult your doctor first. If he/she gives you a green light, there a few drugs or medications to consider.
Over the counter drugs such as Dramamine is common in preventing seasickness. I have taken Stugeron (Cinnarizine) a few times and never got seasick when I took it. But I might not be the best example as I rarely actually get seasick anyway. However, my wife –who is very prone to seasickness—had incredible results with Stugeron.
Also, consider getting the Scopolamine Skin patches medication. This form of medication is usually placed behind the ear and is said to last for at least 3 days straight.
There are many other forms of medications that can be used. Consider the side effects as well, before purchasing any. You should not drive under certain medications, as they can cause drowsiness, reduce reaction speed and severely affect your ability to drive safely.