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Safe Boat Operations – Physical Well-being – Seasickness

Source: Mariners Learning System, by Captain Bob Figular

Motion sickness, or seasickness, is nausea and/or vomiting caused by an imbalance between visual images and the portion of the middle ear that senses motion. Mental and physical stress, as well as the rolling or pitching motion of a boat, contributes to motion sickness. Reading chart work, or other tasks that require close attention, will aggravate motion sickness. The primary symptoms of seasickness are:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Increased salivation
  • Sweating
  • Drowsiness
  • Stomach discomfort

Motion sickness can often be prevented or made less severe with different kinds of anti-motion medication. However, caution must be used prior to taking some anti-motion sickness medications since they may cause drowsiness. Medication taken just before getting underway may not have its maximum effect during your time on the water. In most cases it is recommended that you take this medication at least 45 minutes prior to leaving the dock. You must take most medications prior to feeling the effects of seasickness for them to be effective.

There are other things that can be done to help prevent seasickness in addition to taking medications:

  • Stay out of confined spaces
  • Stay above deck in the fresh air
  • Avoid concentrating on the movement of the boat by looking out over the water toward the horizon or shoreline
  • Avoid smoking

On charter trips that I run I encourage all crewmembers to eat a banana prior to leaving the dock. Most think that the potassium in the banana will prevent them from becoming seasick. I allow them to believe this because I personally feel that seasickness is 90% mental. If you think you are going to be sick then in most cases you might as well start looking for a bucket prior to leaving the dock because you will be sick before the trip is over. The truth is that the banana will not prevent seasickness; however, if you do become sick the vomit will not have the bitter taste of bile instead it will have the sweet taste of banana. If bananas are not available I have been told that peach Snapple tastes like warm peach syrup in the event you become ill.

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