How to treat Seasickness

“Mal de mer” is a common problem offshore and can spoil the most pleasant cruises. In a previous article, I tried to explain the causes for seasickness. Here, I will try to give an overview on common measures against it.

1.) Mind you diet before you fall ill: Seasickness is not directly concerned with any type of diet, but feeling generally fit and healthy is. Avoid heavy meals before and during your cruise, eat light and healthy food that won’t occupy your stomach too much. Try to eat modest portions. Drink enough water for your body. If you are already sick, compensate the amount of liquid and salts that you “lost” by drinking mineral water. Don’t get dehydrated – many people who feel sick stop drinking, which is a mistake.

2.) Look into technical gimmicks: As you know now, seasickness is caused by your eyes saying “everything’s smooth” and your sense of balance saying “rubbish, everything’s goin’ up and down like crazy!”. To give your eyes a reference point that – on contrast to the boat – actually remains in a constant position, a number of simple tools have been developed.

For example goggles with a little tank by the side that contains liquid and a plastic ball – the ball if freely floating and meant to stay in a fixed position. That way, your eye’s will know that you and the boat are moving.

3.) Stay on deck: For the very same reason as point 2, staying on deck can help a great deal. Rest your eyes on the horizon – it will stay constantly where it is meant to be and your brain will grasp that you and the boat are moving together.

4.) Rest and make yourself comfortable: Similar as the food thing, sleep deprived people are more likely to feel sickish. Sleep enough and frequently. Wear warm and comfortable clothing, avoid tight trousers or belts. Help yourself to fresh air.

5.) Take drugs if necessary: There are a number of common drugs available that don’t require a prescription. Keep them in your first-aid box. They are normally antihistamines, thus they cause drowsiness and should not be taken in combination with alcohol. Avoid them if possible, but don’t hesitate to take drugs if you feel your are getting sick!

Antihistamines bind to receptors in your brain and it sometimes takes several days until they show any effect. If you know that you are sensitive to seasickness, make sure to bring appropriate medication. Talk to your doctor before you set sail; read the instructions; and keep an eye on side effects. This applies even more if you take other drugs at the same time – always double-check with a doctor!

Many of the most common drugs are sold in a variety of forms with different names in different countries. The most common ones are hyoscine hydrobromide, meclozine hydrochloride and cinnarizine. They come as pills, patches or solutions and in different concentrations. Some will work better for you than others, it might be worth trying different ones on different occasions. Once again: do talk to your doctor if you encounter any problems using these drugs.

6.) Hints for less severe cases: Try spicy food with chillies and ginger. Drink moderate amounts of beer to please your brain and relax – don’t drink too much, or you will become a safety hazard. Take altoids. Keep yourself distracted and busy – don’t celebrate seasickness. Try not to think of vomiting.

7.) Try to keep calm and think rationally: Seasickness is a matter of time until your brain gets adjusted to an unfamiliar sensation. Depending on your constitution, you will get better within hours or days. If you feel better than other people on board, be a good mate and help them wherever possible. Finally, don’t rely on sickness as being seasickness – there are more severe issues that can make people vomit. Food poisoning or infectious diseases might stay undetected for too long under the “cover” of seasickness.

Further Reading

Back to "vacation"

What is Seasickness? An Introduction

Health and Safety for Cruisers

Wikipedia on Seasickness

Everything you want to know about Seasickness on Mal de Mer - Seasickness