Today I would like to be helpful to both boat owners and non-boat owners and talk about motion sickness and motion sickness remedies.
You may also know motion sickness by its other names such as seasickness or mal de mer (French).
Motion sickness is an actual medical condition and it happens when your vestibular system’s sense of movement disagrees with your visual perceived movement. The vestibular system is, of course, the sensory system tied to your orientation, sense of balance and movement.
What happens next depends on your body but the common symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Visual Disorientation
- Increased Salivation
- Pale Skin
- Nausea – Greek for seasickness (naus means ship)
- Sopite Syndrome – person feels tired and fatigued
- Stomach Cramps
- Vomiting – usually is the result of the above-listed symptoms
Vomiting usually happens when you eat something bad or you had one drink too many, however, in the case of motion sickness, you might not stop vomiting until you get treated.
- 1 Who Is At Risk Of Motion Sickness
- 2 Preventing Motion Sickness
- 3 Motion Sickness Remedies
- 4 Natural Motion Sickness Remedies
- 5 Over-the-Counter Motion Sickness Remedies
- 6 Prescription Drug Remedies for Motion Sickness
Who Is At Risk Of Motion Sickness
Some people are prone to motion sickness and some are not. However, sometimes even the strongest stomachs can’t handle all the rough seas and ocean swells.
There are however some common risk factors that can point to who is more prone to the symptoms. Those are:
- Women in general and especially those who are pregnant or are menstruating
- Children between ages 2 and 12
- Adults prone to migraines
- People with Meniere’s disease – inner ear disorder
- Teens with AIS – adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, the most common type of scoliosis
- People with inner ear infections
- All of us – people addicted to video games, phones, high-def movies and virtual reality technologies
Preventing Motion Sickness
In my view, the best solution to any problem is preventing the problem from happening in the first place. In order do to that you need to be aware of your personal triggers and figure out which motion sickness remedies work for you.
Here are some ways you can try to prevent seasickness;
- Keeping a fixed glaze on the horizon can prevent seasickness quite well. Taking the helm works for me also! It sounds like a simple enough task, but it keeps my focus elsewhere. This will not work if you are navigating at night or in the fog because you can’t see the horizon.
- Try to find a place where you will experience the least amount of motion. If you are on the boat sitting on the floor is your best bet. The lower you are, less your body will rock.
- If you start to feel nauseous try to find some breeze. It should not be too hard on the boat but in case there is no breeze brings a hand-held fan.
- Do not use your phone, iPad, computer or any other electronic device that you need your eyes for. This applies to books too or any type of reading in general.
- If you can’t stay away from your digital devices take small breaks when you use them. If you feel the sickness coming, look away for a few minutes and focus on a stationary object at a distance. This may cause your vestibular system to reset.
- Listen to music. I guess this technology you can use because it relaxes you and makes you forget your problems.
- Eat light. Greasy, fatty and spicy meals only make things worse, try to avoid those a day or two before travel.
Motion Sickness Remedies
Remedies for seasickness very differently for everyone and should be carried onboard as part of your boat’s emergency kit.
Motion sickness medications and remedies run from natural remedies to medical prescriptions for more severe cases.
To prevent seasickness, you need to be on top of maintaining hydration and replacing electrolytes. Keeping your blood sugar stable with regular snacks. These are all ways to prevent seasickness from occurring in the first place.
Still, motion sickness happens. Don’t let it ruin a fishing trip or end a pleasant time on the water by constantly heading to your boat’s toilet! If you get queasy easily, turn to these remedies before the onset of seasickness.
Natural Motion Sickness Remedies
If you prefer good old-fashioned, all-natural seasickness remedies, these are the most time-tested. For me, sometimes grabbing a small snack like a banana or crackers works. Other times, I need something stronger.
Try each remedy for yourself first and see if it alleviates your symptoms.
- Green Apples – Green apples are in general good for our digestive system, but in this case, an apple a day keeps the seasickness away. Even on cruise lines, they offer green apple plates as a part of room service menus. Be cool, bring some apples on your pontoon boat.
- Potassium and Electrolytes – Bananas provide a great source of potassium as do some vitamin mixes like Pedialyte. However, Gatorade and most sports drinks are not ideal for replenishing electrolytes; they’re missing Vitamin C! In place of a sports drink, try adding Emergen-C drink mix to water. You can stock up on Emergen-C packets on Amazon.
- Crackers – There’s something about crackers that do it for me every time. Maybe it’s simply having a bit of nourishment and something salty in my stomach to digest. But it’s one of my easy go-to methods. I always bring crackers on board the boat, whether it’s saltines or sandwich crackers. Add some natural sparkling water to help relieve nausea.
- Acupressure Wristbands – Acupressure wristbands contain a small bead placed on the inside of your wrist along a pressure point. These wristbands work best as preventative, but can quickly take effect three to five minutes after wearing. Although you can find many manufacturers, Sea-Bands are a preferred brand name and easily found over-the-counter in local drugstores, but they are considered a natural remedy. They come in child’s wrist sizes and are also safe for expecting mothers! Check the price on Amazon.
- Nutrition Bars – I’ve recently learned of the Anchor Nutrition Bars by some of my sailing buddies. They swear by these and claim they actually taste pretty good. I personally have not tried them but I have to trust my buddies.
Over-the-Counter Motion Sickness Remedies
In addition to all the natural remedies listed above, I would have a backup plan in case they can’t curb your nausea.
Try over the counter drugs and antihistamines before visiting your doctor and moving on to prescriptions. While we think of antihistamines as allergen blockers and medications, they block our allergies by helping to block signals to our brain. And these are the same signals that tell us we are nauseous.
Keep in mind, of course, that most over-the-counter medications also come in child’s doses for your little ones. But always check with your child’s doctor or pediatrician as they could have allergic reactions or unforeseen side effects like hyperactivity!
Dramamine is a very common medication and can be purchased on Amazon or at your local drugstore in emergencies. Some people claim that if you’re already feeling sick, Dramamine can make it worse! Which is why most prefer Bonine (#9) over Dramamine.
Effectiveness: 30 minutes to take effect.
Side Effects: It can also make you drowsy and lightheaded. And sorry, booze cruisers! Not recommended to consume with alcohol.
Bonine chewable tablets make a better alternative for passengers affected by the drowsiness that Dramamine brings. Being chewable also is great for kids who haven’t quite mastered swallowing pills.
Effectiveness: Takes 1 hour before travel. Lasts a full day, some passengers claim two!
Side Effects: Drowsiness (enhanced with alcohol consumption).
Benadryl is another antihistamine to try that can work. With bad allergies, I use to take this before taking a boat ride into the pollen-ridden wind and it also helped take away any seasickness.
Effectiveness: Take 1 hour before travel.
Side Effects: Drowsiness, mainly.
Prescription Drug Remedies for Motion Sickness
Hopefully, your seasickness never reaches a heightened level, but when all else fails, you may need a stronger drug dose from your physician. This is something you’d need to pay a visit to the doctor’s office.
Transderm Scop (Scopolamine patch)
You’ve probably seen these patches before. They’re placed behind the ears (the inner ear is a crucial part of our equilibrium). Passengers can request the patches from doctors for longer overnight boating trips. I highly recommend them for cruise ship vacations as well! The only drawback is these are preventative and can’t be simply placed behind the ear at the moment you begin to feel nauseous.
Effectiveness: Lasts up to 3 days.
Side Effects: Passengers may have blurred vision, be a bit drowsy, some dizziness, and dry mouth… as a start. Worse side effects include anxiety, hallucinations and even psychosis. Yes, no joke!
Commonly an allergy relief medication, Promethazine is often prescribed alongside the drug ephedrine and taken together to combat nausea. But they each have their side effects.
Effectiveness: Give approximately 20 minutes to take effect. It should last anywhere from 4 – 6 hours, sometimes longer.
Side Effects: A list of side effects for this one I can’t even list here. But mainly other seasick passengers report sleepiness and drowsiness.
Ephedrine alone is used to treat low blood pressure and act as a stimulant for asthma patients or those with shortness of breath. But, again, used alongside Promethazine it works for severe seasickness cases.
Effectiveness: Like Promethazine, 15 – 20 minutes to take effect. Also lasts 4 – 6 hours.
Side Effects: Light drinking with a glass of wine or one beer is considered okay by some, but don’t overdo it!
A Note On Kids and Pets
Children commonly become nauseous over any type of motion sickness. Contrarily, older generations are often less susceptible to seasickness.
Pets also may toss their kibble, especially if they are not used to boating at all. Make sure you understand how to keep your pet safe on the water and if you need, consult your veterinarian.
When You Absolutely Can’t Keep it Down
If you do feel the need to vomit, try to do so in a bucket. This seems obvious, but some boaters ask you head to the boat’s stern. That’s okay too, but a container is safer so you don’t accidentally fall overboard leaning your head out. You may be dizzy and your balance is already at a disadvantage.
And—I hate to tell you—but some passengers actually feel better afterward. We don’t like doing it, and you might want to fight it, but listen to your body’s needs too. If it’s coming up, don’t resist; it could prolong the inevitable!
Consult Your Physician First!
I advise testing these motion-sickness remedies on land first to see how your body reacts. For over the counter and prescription drugs, I recommend taking a dose a good 12 hours before going out. If you don’t give it time to absorb into your bloodstream, you might not keep down medicine when you need it most.
Lastly, every drug has side effects and needs to be properly vetted by your physician—not by me! Please use drugs with caution and learn these side effects before taking them for yourself!
If you’re still new to water and boat activities, I suggest taking a long boat ride or two to test acclimate your stomach or test to see how it reacts to heavy seas. Like I mentioned earlier, some passengers can ride rough waves without a thought and then one day it hits them out of the blue. The important part is having the necessary items on board and knowing the preventative measures before seasickness kicks in.