Seasickness - Avoidance and Treatment
Seasickness results from sensory conflict and/or stress, both of which produce histamine. Nausea results when histamine reaches the brain. Some people are more susceptible than others, but everyone can become seasick, given the right conditions.
Seasickness can occur anytime afloat, but here are some conditions that increase susceptibility: feeling anxious or fearful, change of motion, navigating or reading, heavy weather, pitching or rolling motion of the vessel, chop, fatigue, smells or eating.
When sailing in local waters, seasickness goes away once land is reached. However, on coastal or offshore passages of more than 24 hours, preventing or effectively treating seasickness becomes a health and safety issue as left untreated continual seasickness results in incapacitation.
Helping crew get over seasickness as quickly as possible must be the focus and responsibility of everyone on board. Frequently seasick crew will ask just to be left alone, saying they don't feel like drinking or eating anything, however, leaving them is a mistake! It is important to keep them sipping fluids and regularly eating something; bananas, canned fruit, crackers or cookies.
The responsibility for the safety of the boat doesn't go away if you're seasick. A continual watch for vessels, navigation and weather monitoring must be maintained.
Prevention: avoid coffee, colas, alcohol and fatty foods for a week departure and increase your water intake to 2-3 liters per day. Start appropriate medication 24 hours before departure and catch up on sleep. Sleep removes histamine from the bloodstream. Prepare everything before departure to minimize time below decks once underway: have meals planned and ready, bunks made, navigation organized and appropriate clothing laid out.
Once underway: maintain hydration and blood sugar level by eating regular meals if possible, drinking Emergen-C or a similar vitamin-mineral mix containing potassium and electrolyte replacement minerals, plus snacking on fruit (bananas, rich in potassium are an excellent choice), apples, crackers, ginger snap cookies or hard candies.
If you start to feel queasy, take the helm and steer the boat, focusing on the horizon. If the boat is overpowered, reduce sail. If you are sailing close-hauled, ease sheets and fall off. When going below, first take your foulies off in the cockpit rather than below decks. Minimize time working below decks. The faster you either get back on deck or lie down, the better you'll feel. Lying down prevents histamine from reaching the brain, decreasing nausea. Have a two liter. bowl with tight fitting lid handy in case you need to vomit. This is considerably safer than hanging over the side of the boat to be sick. Don't be afraid to vomit, you'll feel better when you do.
Prolonged vomiting can cause dehydration (surprisingly quickly), dizziness, low blood sugar, low blood pressure, hypothermia (even in the tropics) anxiety, confusion, depression and shock.
Try anecdotal and non-prescription methods first, before prescription drugs.
Anecdotal remedies including ReliefBands, acupressure wrist bands, ginger, electric shock wristbands might provide some psychological relief, but are unproven and of little value from our experience.
Vitamin C Recent European research indicates that 1-3 grams disrupts histamine production. Emergen-C packets (available at health food stores, www.alacercorp.com) contain 1 gram Vitamin C, 31 mineral complexes plus fructose which act as an electrolyte replacement, keeping blood sugar levels up. Drinking 1 liter with a packet two hours before and an hour after getting underway has proven to be effective for most people. Berocca tablets are an alternative widely available outside of North America.
Antihistamines Most antihistamines provide little help and frequently cause serious drowsiness making them inappropriate drugs for sailors needing to maintain an alert watch. To be effective, antihistamines should be taken the night before departure and again right before departure. Any oral tablets are difficult to keep down once vomiting has started.
Stugeron (cinnarizine 15 mg tablets) appears to be by far the most effective of any non-prescription drug. Although widely used outside of North America, it is not FDA approved, but is available from www.CanadaDrugsOnline.com or over the counter in Europe and Mexico.
CAUTION! With any drug, prescription or non-prescription, there are published side effects. Do your research; ask your physician and pharmacist and GOOGLE each drug. If you have heart, blood pressure or prostate problems you physician may not be able to recommend certain of the prescription drugs below. Try any anti-seasickness drug out on land well before departure to check for side effects.
Prescription Anti-Nausea Drugs
Compazine (prochlorperazine) available in 10 or 25 mg. suppositories is the most effective prescription drug from my 35 years and 313,000 miles of ocean testing and research. Phenergan, a similar drug, does not work nearly as well. Suppositories are far superior to tablets once vomiting has started. This drug is used to treat anxiety as well as nausea, and since anxiety causes nausea in many instances, this is an important drug to have aboard. Compazine very occasionally may have side effects, so do your research.
Scopolamine available as Transderm Scop 1.5 mg patches has proven very effective but one MUST first try this drug out on land as potential side effects include extreme drowsiness, blurred vision, hallucinations, psychosis and anxiety.
To become an accomplished ocean sailor, one of the disciplines you must master is seasickness response; if not for yourself then perhaps for your fellow crew members.
Additional notes for Mahina Expeditions sail-training members:
Some level of seasickness (at least moderate queasiness) is normal and should be expected during the first 1-4 days of an ocean passage, even if you have never been seasick while coastal sailing.
You will need to stand your regular watches and join the crew at mealtime, even if seasick. This is very important for a speedy recovery. The incidence of sustained seasickness aboard Mahina Tiare, even in heavy weather has dropped to nearly zero for expedition members that have followed the above suggestions.