What is Seasickness?
Sea sickness is a type of motion sickness that is defined as the discomfort that’s experienced when perceived motion disturbs the organs of balance. Of course, it’s not life-threatening but it’s not fun and it can have the power to spoil your journey. A very common illness, it not only occurs on boats and ships but in cars, buses, trains and planes. Older people, those who suffer from migraine headaches, pregnant women and children between the ages of 5 and 12 tend to be more susceptible. Once the motion has stopped, it doesn’t take long for seasickness to go away.
Are you prone to seasickness?
An individual’s susceptibility to seasickness is highly variable. It affects each person differently. If you’ve ever experienced motion sickness when riding in a car or anywhere else, there is a greater possibility that you’re more susceptible to seasickness when aboard a vessel. As mentioned, there are certain groups of people who are more likely to experience it, such as the elderly, pregnant women and children. One study found that gender can make a difference, showing that 38 percent of women reported feeling motion sickness when put in a room with oscillating visualizations designed to induce it, while just nine percent of men reported the same.
What causes sea sickness?
Seasickness is the result of a conflict in the inner ear which is where a human’s balance mechanism resides. It’s caused by the erratic motion of a vessel on the water. For example, when the body is bobbing along with the boat, the inner ear detects changes in the side-to-side and up-and-down acceleration. The eyes tell the brain that the scene is relatively stable, yet the cabin is moving with the passenger. As the brain is agitated by the perceptual incongruity, it responds by triggering stress-related hormones which can lead to nausea, vertigo and vomiting. Symptoms can be magnified by strong odors like fish too.
Symptoms of seasickness can begin suddenly and may include cold sweats, pale skin, dizziness, nausea, headache, inability to focus and vomiting, sometimes preceded by swallowing excessive air and increased saliva production. Vomiting can also cause weakness and fatigue. If ventilation is poor, symptoms can worsen which is why fresh air can help. Be aware that just thinking about movement can actually result in symptoms of motion sickness. Seasickness symptoms tend to subside when the motion stops. Those on longer trips, like cruises, usually adapt to the motion over time and gradually recover, but there are many ways to prevent it from occurring.
Choose the right cabin
If you have concerns about seasickness, choose a cabin that’s at the center of the ship on a lower deck as close to the water level as possible. That’s at the fulcrum point of the vessel, which means less movement is felt as compared to the higher decks with cabins all the way to the back or far forward. A cabin with a balcony is worth investigating too as being able to see the horizon can reduce nausea.
Look to the horizon
While you might be tempted to hide away in your cabin, if you’re prone to seasickness you’re better off spending as much time outdoors as possible. While you’re out on the deck, don’t watch the water which can make you disoriented, leading to seasickness. Instead, focus on the horizon which can help your brain regain balance in your inner ear and throughout the senses that become disconnected by movement.
Be careful with what you eat and drink on board
Eating fat-rich, spicy or heavy foods can significantly increase the odds of developing seasickness, as can consuming an excessive amount of alcohol. The better news is that there are foods that can help alleviate it. If you start to feel nauseous, try sipping lemon with water, eating crackers or green apples. It’s also a good idea to bring some ginger tea or candy with you to have on hand. Ginger has long been known to help prevent nausea, including nausea associated with seasickness.
Try using earplugs
As seasickness is the result of conflicting signals about movement received by the brain, inserting an earplug into one ear will trick it into ignoring signals from your ears and instead force it to focus on signals that are sent by your eyes. Sailors have used this trick throughout the years and many claim it works best by inserting the earplug into the ear that’s opposite from your dominant hand, meaning if you’re right-handed, put it in your left ear.
Avoid using digital devices
Staring at a screen on one of your digital devices is a quick way to get seasick. That includes your phone, laptop and Kindle. In fact, you might want to avoid reading anything while sailing. Similar to when you’re a passenger in a car, it can disturb middle ear balance, leading to nausea, dizziness and other seasickness symptoms.
Take some vitamin C
The overproduction of histamine in your body can increase the chances of becoming seasick. Antihistamines can help but if you want a more natural way to reduce histamine production, eat and drink more foods that are rich in vitamin C like citrus fruit or take a vitamin C supplement. Studies have shown that it’s effective in suppressing symptoms, especially in women and men who are younger than 27 years of age.
Natural remedies cure seasickness
There are several natural remedies that are effective for curing seasickness in addition to ginger and the various foods already mentioned. Try pressing on a pressure point called the P6 on your wrist to relieve nausea and vomiting. Located on the inner side of your forearm about two inches above the crease of your wrist, you’ll want to press on it using the index finger of your opposite hand. Deep breathing, meaning taking deep breaths from your belly, can also be effective. Some sufferers have found relief with essential oils which stimulate senses that can distract you from the motion, such as lavender, peppermint and ginger.
Get the right medication
If you’ve been on a boat or in a car where you’ve experienced nausea in the past, pick up some over-the-counter motion sickness medication to bring with you on your cruise, such as Dramamine, available in most drug stores. Your doctor or pharmacist can provide advice on the best one to use and any potential side effects that you should be aware of. It’s usually a good idea to begin taking them a day or two before departure.
Try sea sickness bands
Anti-nausea wristbands work similarly to pressing on the P6 pressure point yourself. They’re embedded with a plastic stud that exerts pressure, stimulating the P6 on your wrist without you having to think about it. The bracelets aren’t as powerful as pharmacologic medications but you’re likely to find relief without the side effects like sleepiness or dry mouth.
Go for bigger more stable ships
Smaller ships are more likely to cause seasickness which means you might want to consider a larger, more stable ship. The better news is that custom-built small ships designed to cruise Croatia were made to provide comfortable, smooth sailing. And, unlike those massive cruise liners, they don’t travel on open seas. The Croatian coast and islands are relatively protected with neighboring islands providing protection from the winds.
Take a nap if you feel sick
When the worst comes to worst, take a nap. If you can sleep through something, you won’t know it’s happening. Lying down with your feet up and your eyes shut helps to prevent the brain from becoming confused by conflicting signals, so even if you can’t fall asleep, that can make a big difference on its own. Slip on an eye mask and use earplugs to block the senses that cause sea sickness too. If you do manage to get some shut-eye, waking up at the next port, you’ll be ready to go for any adventure.
Get some fresh air
Sometimes, a little fresh air is all it takes to relieve that nauseous feeling as stuffiness and lack of ventilation encourages sea sickness. The fresh air will help clear your sinuses, reducing mucus that can make symptoms worse. Head to the sundeck or the balcony of your cabin and look toward the horizon (as noted in the previous tip). The wind blowing on your face tends to help too.