WITNESS THE SICKNESS

SEA SICKNESS

Chunda. Blow chunks. Spew. Sea soup. Chuck-up. Vomit. Barf. Wretch. Hurl. Technicolour yawn. Puke. Losing lunch. Tossing cookies. Yacking. Ralfing. Heave.

Doesn’t mater how you say it. Sea sickness is really grim once it gets going and you know that you’re miles from land.

It’s embarrassing too. Everyone knows that there’s a direct relationship between how much of a watermen you are and how easily you get sea sick!

Well maybe not..

It doesn’t matter who you are. Everyone gets sea sick. The fun bit is finding out how prone you are compared to your mates. The not so fun bit is waiting to improve. Or giving up and hoping it kills you and so ending your torture.

Vomiting over the side of a boat is a good opportunity to start thinking hard about your life and focus on getting back to basics. Like breathing.

WHAT IS SEASICKNESS?

Annoying.

It’s thought to be (few other clever theories) caused by a confused set of information about your environment going to your brain from your eyes and (middle) ears. To interpret these conflicting bits of information requires your brain to make adjustments to the information it’s getting. The reason why some people are more prone to others, is that some are worse at adjusting for misinformation than others. You can be naturally good at it, and also learn it. Get your sea legs. The adjustment made over time is the reason why you can feel like you’re at sea when on land after spending a week on a liveaboard. 

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

  • Feeling sleepy
  • Nausea (mild to severe)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Sweating
  • Sweeping feeling of hopelessness and a growing disregard for self-dignity

CAN I REDUCE MY CHANCES OF GETTING SEA SICK?

  • Avoid sitting near exhaust fumes
  • Avoid getting to hot. Putting on a wetsuit on a boat is a classic. Try soaking it in water first.
  • Try not to go below deck
  • Cabins right at the front of the boat are going to move a lot up and down when on the move through swell. There’s some evidence that suggests that up & down movement is the worst.. It may be a good idea to swap to try and get a cabin in the middle of the boat.
  • Look at the horizon. Don’t actually try and focus on it.
  • Don’t focus on objects on the boat as your body will think that they are stationary.  It will be confused as to why your inner ear is telling it that you are moving. Confusion = Puke time!
  • Keep well hydrated
  • Don’t binge on huge amounts of food.
  • Being hungover makes you more prone to travel sickness..
sea sickness cabin

A room with a view. A cabin on deck at the front. Not the ideal place to sleep if you’re prone to sea sickness.

GIVE ME ALL YOUR DRUGS

Once you’re blowing chunks its too late to take a tablet. Get them down your neck early.

  • Keep well hydrated. Especially is you’ve been in the sun all day. Dehydration + vomiting = Bad times.
  • Antihistamines such as cyclizine. Most over the counter travel sickness tablets are antihistamines. They make you drowsy. Piriton which is used for allergies can be useful. Have a look at our article on medical travel kit.
  • There are a number of good anti-sickness tablets out there which would be useful if you get sea sick badly. To get your hands on these you need to go to your doctor and get a private prescription. I find Ondansetron works really well for me.
  • Pressure bands. Some people swear by them. Good for them. There is some evidence that having a positive mental attitude reduces the symptoms of sea sickness too.

It’s not always hard going. Plain sailing somewhere in there Southern Atols in the Maldives

Author: Dr Dave Baglow

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Disclaimer

There is no substitution for being examined and treated by a medical professional. The intention of the articles on this website is to inform anyone who reads it of medical issues encountered on surf trips.This website is designed to provide general practical information not specific medical advice.

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1 Comment on WITNESS THE SICKNESS

  1. Great article Dr Dave. Good tips and the first time I’ve actually enjoyed reading about vomiting. Cheers!

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