Top Tips to Prevent Seasickness
One guaranteed way to put a dampener on a sailing trip is that sudden onset of uneasiness followed by the irresistible urge to put your head over the rail and commit the contents of your stomach to the deep.
With seasickness - or, to be more accurate, motion sickness, it’s not the sea that’s the problem; it’s our reaction to what’s going on around us. Our brains interpret motion partly through sight but also with the aid of our vestibular system; a complex network of nerves, channels and fluids in the inner ear. Seasickness happens when there’s a mismatch between these two systems; where our motion sensors in the inner ears can sense the bobbing of the boat - but what we’re sensing doesn’t correspond completely with what we’re seeing. The reaction can come in the form of dizziness, headache, cold sweats and nausea.
It can hit even the most seasoned sailors - but the good news is that there are things you can do to keep it at bay. Here’s a handful of tips to help you get your sea legs…
Pack your pills
If you’ve got previous form for seasickness, it’s worth speaking to your pharmacist. Anti-motion sickness drugs usually contain either hyoscine (such as Kwells), which blocks some of the nerve signals sent from the vestibular system, or antihistamine (such as Stugeron) which can help to control vomiting and nausea.
Medication is usually taken a couple of hours in advance of setting sail. Especially if you’re going to be at the helm, be sure to avoid anything likely to cause drowsiness and make sure your pharmacist is aware of any other medication you’re on.
When it comes to natural remedies, it’s a case of if it works for you, then go with it. Root ginger is a long-standing favourite, having apparently been first used as a seasickness cure by the ancient Chinese. It’s thought that ginger contains a number of chemicals that have a settling effect on the intestinal tract, making it useful for preventing or reducing nausea. Ginger capsules are readily available in health food shops and chemists.
We also have the Chinese to thank for the idea of acupressure; applying pressure to certain parts of the body to reduce the symptoms. Some people find that acupressure bands are useful for stemming nausea and these adjustable wristbands are widely available - including at Boots.
Don’t skip breakfast
An empty stomach is one that’s generally more prone to irritability. Have a meal an hour or so before the trip, but avoid acidic or greasy food. Avoid alcohol as well.
It was Lord Nelson who apparently said that the best cure for seasickness was to sit under a tree. If you feel yourself getting queasy, then try and stay central where the effects of the boat’s movement will be less pronounced.
Keep away from the engines
Strong odours can add to the sensory overload your brain is experiencing. With this in mind, sit or stand upwind from the diesel fumes and any onboard cooking.
Focus on the horizon
Staring at your instrument panels or charts will do you no favours. Your aim is to try and match what you’re seeing with the movement your body is registering. As such, face the direction of travel and look out over the horizon.
Staying topside means you can focus better on the horizon. However, with this comes the risk of overheating. Sunbathing and seasickness don’t mix: try and position yourself under some shade, wear a hat and stay hydrated.
Remember that this will pass…
If all else fails, it may be a matter of finding a quiet spot on deck, closing your eyes and tuning out for a while, perhaps with some music.
The good news is that seasickness isn’t a life sentence. Speak to anyone who spends their lives at sea, from trawlermen to cruise stewards, and they’ll tell you that it’s something that tends to pass away naturally. Doctors call it habituation; it’s where our brain gets acclimated to our surroundings and eventually becomes less likely to trigger such an intense physical reaction.
So be prepared before setting off, try and roll with it on board and remember that the more time you spend at sea, the less of a problem it should be.