There is nothing quite like being on a boat, breathing in the fresh sea air, and being somewhat dependent on the weather conditions and the sea. Unfortunately, almost everybody will experience sea-sickness on the rough seas, and some can be affected even when it’s relatively calm.
Whilst you are getting your sea-legs, your brain is getting mixed signals. Your eyes will see motion that your body doesn’t feel, sending mixed messages to your brain and inner ear. Your brain can predict movement on land, but it can’t predict or control the ever-changing movements of the ocean. Fluid filled canals within your inner ear are sensitive to movement and vibration caused by motion and can lead to a range of symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, weakness and lethargy. Some people experience sea sickness throughout their sea journey due to having more sensitive inner ear canals.
Here are some tips to help you minimise the problem of sea-sickness:
- Lie down when possible, as this will allow the inner ear canals to rest and may reduce the urge to vomit. Always look out towards the horizon and hold this as your reference point as your body adjusts to the new movement. If cruising on an ocean liner, request a cabin towards the front on the upper deck.
- Avoid eating a large meal before boarding the vessel, however ensure you don’t start on an empty stomach either. Avoid dairy, fried and high fat foods as these typically take longer to digest. Eat a light, simple meal before your journey such as a sandwich, wrap or poached egg with toast. It’s recommended you eat light meals whilst at sea.
- Ginger apparently has many ancient medicinal properties, including anti-nausea actions. It comes in many forms including dried, crystallised, liquid formulations and in tea. Ginger works within the gastrointestinal tract by increasing gastric tone, motility and reportedly increases gastric emptying.
- Abstain from drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours before boarding your vessel and for the duration of your trip if you are prone to severe sea sickness. It is best to avoid smoke and fumes as these will exacerbate symptoms.
- Do deep and slow breathing exercises, as short and shallow breaths can make the nausea worse. This will help control any anxiety.
- Medication can be prescribed by your doctor. The first choice for addressing sea- sickness includes medication such as hyoscine-hydrobromide (KwellsT), which helps to regulate the brain signalling. Anti-histamines such as Promethazine (Phenergan) are also effective at moderating the brain signalling and reducing the nausea and vomiting. These medications should be taken 30-60 minutes before departure. They can cause several side effects, including drowsiness, irritability, dry mouth and should not be mixed with alcohol. Always speak with your doctor before taking any new medication.
- Anti-nausea acupressure bands worn around the wrist have been studied in patients being treated with chemotherapy and after surgery. Although promising, more research is needed to support their use.
Whilst it’s almost impossible to prevent motion sickness, these suggestions may be just the thing to help you enjoy your trip and lessen the impact of motion sickness.
1. Lete I et al, The Effectiveness of Ginger in the Prevention of Nausea and Vomiting during Pregnancy and Chemotherapy. Integr Med Insights 2016; 11: 11–17.
4. Ezzo J et al, Cochrane systematic reviews examine P6 acupuncture-point stimulation for nausea and vomiting. J Altern Complement Med, 2006 Jun;12(5):489-95.