How to Avoid Sea Sickness

Two Parts:Avoiding Sea Sickness NaturallyTaking Medication for Sea Sickness

Seasickness or "mal de mer" is a common type of motion sickness caused by a disturbance in the inner ear due to repeated motions, such as the rising and falling of a boat while on water.[1] Common symptoms include dizziness, nausea, sweating, stomach cramps, and vomiting. Anyone can theoretically develop seasickness, but some people have a much greater sensitivity to motion due to their physiology, health status and/or from taking prescription medications. Medication can help to combat the symptoms, although there are also some practical ways of avoiding or reducing the likelihood of seasickness.

Part 1
Avoiding Sea Sickness Naturally

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    Be careful what you eat and drink before going on a boat. Before boarding any boat (big or small) try to avoid consuming things that are likely to make your seasickness and nausea worse, such as alcohol, caffeine, fatty foods and spicy foods.[2] Heavy, greasy meals contribute to the development of nausea, which will be worsened by the motion on the water. That being said, it's important not to travel/sail on an empty stomach either. Focus on drinking lots of purified water and eating small portions of low-fat, high-protein foods such as grilled turkey or chicken breast, lean fish, cottage cheese, or legumes.
    • Sea sickness most commonly affects young children, pregnant women, and migraine sufferers.
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    Choose a seat associated with the least motion. When booking travel on a cruise ship or boarding any other decent sized boat, try to get a berth or seat as close to the center point of the vessel as possible, because that area will experience the least amount of motion.[3] Also try to get as close to the water as possible because the further away you get from the surface (the top decks of cruise ships, for example), the more motion you'll experience. In addition, try to seat yourself facing the direction of travel because you'll feel better orientated.
    • Seasickness symptoms arise due to conflicting sensory information between the inner ear, eyes, and brain.[4] In essence, your brain thinks it's moving more than it actually is.
    • Sailing on large cruise ships doesn't pose as many problems for people because of their relative lack of bobbing motion and use of automated stabilizers.
    • To acclimate yourself aboard a cruise ship it's best to spend some time out on a lower deck, using the horizon as a point to maintain your equilibrium.
    • Having a window to look out will also give you a view of the horizon point.
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    Don't read while on a boat. Just like reading while riding in a car, reading on a boat can increase your risk of getting sea sick.[5] The problem is that your eyes are focused on the words in the book, which aren't moving, but your vestibular senses in your inner ears are picking up on all the movements caused by the boat — this conflicting information for the brain leads to feelings of disorientation, mild dizziness and nausea. As such, don't read books or magazines while on a boat if you're sensitive to seasickness. Instead, keep your gaze fixed on the horizon or on a fixed point until your inner ears and brain better synchronize with each other in terms of movement.
    • If you're very sensitive to seasickness but enjoy cruising, then book only port-intensive cruises with lots of stops and fewer days on the rougher open seas.
    • Consider reading prior to getting on a boat because it can make you drowsy and more prone to sleep. Sleeping on a boat, if that's appropriate, can negate the effects of seasickness.
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    Wear a specially designed wrist band. A particularly interesting approach to negating the nausea and dizziness associated with repetitive motion is acupressure, particularly of the "P6 point" near the wrist.[6] Acupressure is an ancient Chinese art of healing that stimulates various points around the body to reduce symptoms and encourage healing. The P6 point is about one inch above the crease of your wrist and associated with controlling or reducing nausea. Specially designed wrist bands are available for this purpose and sold online or at travel stores. Anecdotal reports suggest they are quite effective for all types of motion sickness.
    • A new FDA-approved device for motion sickness, called the ReliefBand, uses weak electrical current to stimulate the P6 point.
    • Alternatively, consider simply stimulating the P6 point with your thumb when you begin to feel nauseous and see how it works.
    • Clinical trials have yielded mixed results concerning the value of acupressure in general, so your results may differ significantly from others.
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    Consider taking some ginger. An old home remedy for the prevention of nausea involves taking the spice known as ginger. Ginger spice is made from the underground rhizome (similar to root) of the ginger plant — it has a pungent and zesty flavor. Ginger has a long history of being very effective in alleviating many types of gastrointestinal symptoms. Studies looking at sea sickness in naval cadets found that consuming ginger (before boarding) significantly reduces the symptoms of motion sickness, such as dizziness, nausea and vomiting.[7]
    • Medicinally, ginger is most commonly taken as a capsule (dried), but eating it fresh or pickled works also. You can also eat ginger chews or candies.
    • Take between one to two grams of ginger at least 30 minutes before boarding a boat in order to avoid or minimize nausea.
    • Numerous studies have confirmed that ginger is particularly effective in relieving nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.[8]

Part 2
Taking Medication for Sea Sickness

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    Try over-the-counter antihistamines. Drugs called antihistamines are the most frequently used and widely available medications for the symptoms of motion sickness.[9] Antihistamines work by influencing the part of the brain that controls nausea and vomiting.The most common ones used for sea sickness include dimenhydrinate (Dramamine), cyclizine (Marezine), diphenhydramine (Benadryl), promethazine (Phenergan) and meclizine (Antivert).
    • Non-sedating antihistamines appear to be less effective, and besides, you may actually want to sleep your time away while on a boat. Promethazine causes the most sleepiness, whereas meclizine (also used to treat vertigo) is less sedating and can be taken as a single daily dose.[10]
    • Medications are most effective when taken prior to boarding a boat and less effective for symptom relief after the sea sickness has begun.
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    Ask your doctor about prescription anticholinergics. Anticholinergics are another class of drugs commonly used to combat motion sickness and they work by slowing down the messages related to the involuntary nervous system that go back and forth between the brain, inner ears, and eyes.[11] Scopolamine (Transderm-Scop) is the most well-known anticholinergic and is available as a skin patch meant to be applied behind your ear at least eight hours before boarding a boat. It's effectiveness for nausea prevention can last for up to three days.
    • Common side effects of scopolamine are the same as those of antihistamines (drowsiness, blurred vision, dry mouth, and confusion).
    • Scopolamine also has the ability to cause hallucinations and wipe out short-term memory, so extreme caution should be used with this drug. Pills tend to produce more side effects than the transdermal patch, but never use more than one patch at a time.
    • Other prescription medications sometimes used to manage sea sickness include: antidopaminergics (promethazine and metoclopramide), amphetamines, and benzodiazepines (Xanax and Valium).
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    Ask your doctor what drugs may cause or worsen nausea. Some prescription drugs commonly cause nausea in sensitive users, so it's important to realize if yours are on that list. If they are and you're planning on a cruise or just going boating for the day, ask your doctor if you can discontinue or reduce the dose over the short-term. For example, some antidepressants, oral contraceptives, antibiotics (erythromycin), anti-parasitics and narcotics (codeine) are known to worsen the nausea of sea sickness.[12] However, never change doses of prescription medication without your doctor's approval.
    • If you are taking prescription medications, avoid mixing them with alcohol, particularly while on a boat.
    • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can also worsen the effects of motion sickness.


  • Avoid those who are already sea sick. The sights and sounds of their discomfort could trigger you.
  • Add distractions while you're on a boat — listen to music or use aromatherapy scents, such as mint or lavender.
  • Try not to go in the cabin. That area bobs around the most, and you often can't see outside.


  • If your symptoms worsen or do not go away after returning to shore, you should seek medical attention as it could be an indication of a more serious condition.

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Categories: Conditions and Treatments | Travel Cruises