How seasickness works

What is seasickness?

Seasickness is often also referred to as motion sickness, although the motion of a boat on the ocean is likely to bring it on for many people. The symptoms include vomiting, dizziness, a cold sweat and pale skin; however, some people also suffer from headaches, extreme tiredness, and shallow, rapid breathing.

What causes seasickness?

Seasickness is caused due to the fluid in your inner ears moving around in conflict with what your eyes are seeing. This fluid deals with balance and with the difference in the messages from your eyes are ears, your brain cannot update how you are moving, and this confusion causes the symptoms of seasickness. The reason motion sickness occurs in cars, for example, is because your eyes believe you are traveling fast, where as your vestibular system can feel that you are sat stationary. This confusion causes the sickness. Some people are more susceptible to seasickness than others. For example, pregnant women, or those on their periods can be more likely to suffer from seasickness. Motion sickness is quite common for children between the ages of 3 and 12, and anyone who regularly suffers with migraines is also likely to get both motion sickness and a migraine!


Can you stop seasickness?

Often, the best cure for seasickness is to simply wait it out – as unpleasant as that might be. In most cases, the body tends to be able to adapt to the conditions, and you will feel better after a while (good news for those who are holidaying on cruises!). For some people, however, they will not feel better until they are back on dry, and stable land.

Easing seasickness

Staying as still as possible will help to ease the symptoms. The middle seats of a boat or other moving vehicle will be the most still and using a pillow can help stabilize your head. The less the fluid in your ears move, the less confusion in your brain to cause sickness. Staring at a fixed object can often help, especially one in the distance. Reading is not a good idea as it is likely to make you feel sicker. Try to relax as much as possible and take your mind off the sickness by listening to music or focusing on your breathing. If possible, get some fresh air. Opening a window or going up to the top deck is a good idea, as fresh air will hopefully help make you feel a little better.

Stay hydrated! Get some water and avoid large meals or alcohol before you travel as that can aggravate your seasickness.


Seasickness medication

If you really struggle with seasickness and are planning on spending some time on a boat (perhaps you are getting a ferry, or going on a cruise), you can ask your doctor to provide medication. Hyoscine is a strong motion sickness medication that works by blocking some of the signals from your vestibular system. It can be found in pharmacies and comes as a patch too. Side effects can include dizziness, drowsiness and blurred vision so this is something important to consider. Interestingly, antihistamines can also be used to ease nausea and vomiting, and they have fewer side effects than Hyoscine. That said, they are not always as effective, so it is a case of weighing up the pros and cons of each.

Complementary therapies

Acupressure bands are often sold and marketed as a way to ease motion sickness. They are bands that press on a certain point on your wrist that is said to help with seasickness. Some people swear by these bands and others state that they have no impact. Ginger is said to help with vomiting and nausea and so taking some ginger biscuits or tea with you may help to settle your stomach.

Don’t let seasickness ruin your time on the water!