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How to Beat Sea Sickness

You paid good money for that lunch--don't feed it to the fishes.

Don't believe the bragging of old salts—anyone can get seasick under the right conditions. It's not a sign of moral weakness, so don't be embarrassed. But you can improve your chances of avoiding it:

  • Choose a big, wide boat. Bigger boats have a slower roll and usually a more comfortable motion. Twin-hulled catamarans have the least motion.
  • Start healthy. Be rested, recovered from jet lag, and not hung over.
  • Minimize motion. Find a seat near the center of the boat, where there is less motion. The stern is good too, but beware of diesel fumes.
  • Stay on deck. It helps to see the horizon, possibly because your eyes then agree with what your middle ears are saying—that your body is rocking and pitching. One theory is that nausea is caused by mixed messages when your eyes report that all is stationary.
  • Watch the horizon. The reference confirms that you are, in fact, in motion. If you must stay below, lie down and close your eyes.
  • Don't try to read. Focusing your eyes on an apparently stationary target makes your brain even more convinced that your middle ears are wrong.
  • Eat something. Opinions vary on this one, but most people feel better with a little bland food in their stomachs. Bread, bagels, pancakes, etc. are better than doughnuts, eggs and bacon. Coffee and orange juice are acidic and may irritate your stomach. Eat a little, not a lot.
  • Anxiety contributes. If you're frightened by the ocean and the movement of the boat, or anxious about diving, you're more likely to become seasick. Get to the boat early so you have lots of time to prepare for the diving.

What About Medications?

Pills: Seasickness pills (Dramamine, Bonine, Marazine, etc.) work for most people most of the time. These are preventatives, not treatments. Start taking them 12 to 24 hours in advance to build up a level of the drug in your system. After you feel queasy, it's too late for a pill to help. Beware of side effects like drowsiness, and stick with what has worked in the past. Don't experiment with new meds—and their side effects—when you'll be diving.

Scopolamine patches: Available by prescription, these seem to work better than pills and have fewer side effects.

Sea Bands: These are elastic wrist bands with buttons that touch purported acupressure points. Some people swear by them. If they work for you, great.

If All Else Fails: Let 'er rip. You'll feel better than if you try to hold it in and it's probably inevitable anyway. A couple of tips:

Warning signs: Chills, cold sweats, persistent burping, headache. On your mark, get set...

Where to go: On deck, to the leeward (downwind) railing, or to the stern. Be sure there's a firm railing to hold on to, as you may feel surprisingly weak. Don't use a toilet or trash can. Ask a deckhand if you have any doubt. You won't be the first.

By: John Francis

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