Don't let Sea Sickness ruin your dives anymore
Nothing ruins a dive trip like sea sickness. Thus, most divers will go along way to avoid spilling your breakfast overboard. But what can you do to avoid getting motion sickness? What really works?
Motion Sickness and Travel Sickness
When going on a dive, you are told to have a relatively large breakfast in the morning, to keep your strength up throughout your day of diving. However, there is nothing worse than listening to this instruction and spending the whole day on the dive boat, either feeling nauseous or vomiting over the side of the boat.
Whilst some may have no problem at all, statistics show that usually 1 in 3 people suffer with motion sickness or seasickness, when on the move. Feeling poorly when on a dive boat is one of the worst things any diver can experience and it can hinder your future travel plans as well as your future dives. Nausea and travel sickness does not only occur on a boat, it can occur when travelling in a car or on a bus and can generally ruin any great experience. When the symptoms begin, they usually won’t stop until you have your feet firmly on land, however for some, it can last up until the next day.
What causes motion sickness?
In simple terms, motion sickness is caused by; the body, inner ear and eyes all sending different messages to the brain, which can make the body and brain, feel extremely unsettled. Usually, one of your systems thinks that your body is moving, however the other does not. This produces the same symptoms that you might feel if you have ingested a toxin. These toxins trigger a physical reaction that causes you to vomit and therefore remove the imaginary toxins.
What are the symptoms of motion sickness?
Of course, the best way to avoid motion sickness is by preventing it. So knowing what to look out for and tackling it head on, is the best course of action. The key is being able to recognise the symptoms and to react as early as possible. This is what you need to look out for;
- Yawning (which can be difficult if you have an early start and are already tired)
- Stomach Pain or discomfort
- Your surroundings become distorted (the walls of the boat are not moving however, your brain is telling you that they are)
- Slight sweating
- Excessive salivating
- Passing wind or belching
- Difficulty when concentrating
Some people find it hard to recognise the early symptoms of motion sickness and by the time they respond, it is already too late. So here are some ways which you can avoid motion sickness altogether. Remember that we are all different and what works for some may not automatically work for you. You many need to trial out certain things before you find what works for you.
Ways to prevent motion sickness and travel Sickness
- Make sure that you get plenty of rest before going out on a dive, if it means that you are tucked up in bed before 9pm the night before, then make it so. Exhaustion can have a huge part to play in motion sickness and can make you more susceptible to other causes of motion sickness.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water before your journey. For some, this can actually make the symptoms of motion sickness much worse but for others can really help, so make sure to test this option out.
- I know it may seem strange to suggest, however drinking a can of coke or diet coke can really help to ease the symptoms of motion sickness. Fizzy drinks contain an ingredient called phosphoric acid, which is a chemical found in ‘Emetrol’ which is used by doctors as an anti nausea medication.
- Always take an indigestion tablet with you on your journey. Sometimes motion sickness can cause relentless indigestion, so it is always good to have one on hand if required.
- Stay hydrated. When you go scuba diving it is usually in a relatively warm climate. Being dehydrated can cause a range of symptoms similar to that of motion sickness, so always be prepared and take a bottle of water with you.
- Stay away from alcohol the night before you are set to go out on a dive boat. Drinking the night before a dive is always a no no, however even more so if you are prone to motion sickness. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol can prevent the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep, which is the one where your brain fully rests and you begin to dream. When waking up after this, you may feel foggy, unable to concentrate and hung over, which can only leave you more susceptible to the symptoms of motion sickness. If you do go out for a night out before diving the next morning use the 1:1 rule, which is; for every glass of alcohol you consume, the next glass you drink is water. This will help you to remain hydrated and fully functional the next day.
- Do not eat overly greasy or acidic foods the night before the dive or the morning of the dive. This even includes drinking coffee or caffeinated drinks. These will weigh heavy on your stomach and slow down your digestive process. This can leave you feeling bloated, nauseous and can cause your stomach to churn whilst your dive boat is rolling over the open water.
- Don’t miss a meal before your dive. Not only will you need the energy for your day of diving, eating the right foods can help your stomach concentrate on something, other than wanting to remove its contents.
- Once you are on the dive boat, be the keno, set up your dive gear immediately, this will reduce the amount of time that you spend on deck and will mean that you will only be focussing on static objects before the boat has even left the dock.
- Avoid gasoline or petrol fumes. I know this seems pretty difficult as this is what the boat is running on, however the smell can in fact make nausea much worse, so stay away from the engines.
- Avoid the direct sunlight, if that is impossible on your dive boat, then make sure to wear protective clothing and stay hydrated.
- When looking for a good place to avoid motion sickness, try to avoid enclosed spaces. Finding a place at the front of the boat where the wind is blowing can seriously help you if you are beginning to feel the symptoms of motion sickness. Find a place where you can have the wind in your hair and see the horizon, as focussing on a distant static object can trick your brain into thinking that you are not moving. If the front of the boat is not working for you, then try the middle of the boat, as this is the most stable and calmest part.
- If you see someone getting seasick on your boat then MOVE AWAY FAST. The majority of individuals can control themselves when talking about vomiting, however witnessing it and smelling it, is a totally different matter. Just remember that there is nothing you can do for that person and the only way to help them feel better is by vomiting, so leave them to it. If it is you who is about to throw up, then make sure that you always aim over the sides of the boat and not in the general seating area.
- If you can, try and sleep between the dives. Sleeping is perfect as it allows your body to relax. Try sleeping on your back, as this prevents your stomach from moving around too much.
- Try and keep yourself busy. If the captain allows you, help them to steer the boat as not only will you be able to concentrate on something, taking your mind off the crippling effects of motion sickness, but you will also be able to see the horizon clearer and focus on it better.
- If the nausea begins to creep up on you, then a simple way to help is by tipping your head to the side. This gives your brain a totally different perspective and can help to eliminate the nausea, even for a short time. This can provide the essential relief any motion sickness sufferer is desperate for.
- Clean your ear out before embarking on a trip, as this will help the balance mechanism within the inner ear work better and has even been known to prevent the symptoms of motion sickness.
- Be in the best physical condition that you can be in. Before setting off on a dive trip, there are certain guidelines which need to be stuck to, if you are in the best shape you can be, then seasickness is less likely to hit you and if it does, then it usually isn’t as bad as it would be if you were in bad shape.
- There are a number of alternative therapies that you could try to avoid getting travelsick. One of which is Hypnotism, this can be extremely beneficial if you have tried everything and nothing seems to work for you. Another alternative therapy is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) these techniques can be used before even stepping on the boat and can be used to reduce the symptoms once seasickness hits you.
- If you are really suffering with dizziness, vomiting and nausea, then one way to help relieve your suffering is by getting someone to throw ICE cold water over you. It helps to shock your body, getting your systems to function properly again. You would be amazed how well this works and it is quite fun for the person throwing the water over you.
Natural preventatives of motions sickness and travel sickness
There are a number of natural ways to help reduce the symptoms of travel/motion sickness.
- Ginger is a natural antiemetic, which helps to soothe the stomach. You can either have fresh ginger in a mug of hot water or be prepared and slice up some fresh ginger root and put it in your bottle of water before going out on the boat. This will provide a refreshing beverage to enjoy (and help to make you less nauseas) throughout your day. You can buy ginger in any grocery store. If you do not like the taste of ginger, then you can even buy ginger root pre-packaged in capsule form, so you do not have to worry about the taste.
- Liquorice is another natural antiemetic. You can either buy this in the form of liquorice bark or in the form of sweets. Either is good however, if you opt for the sweet option, then try to limit yourself as eating too much liquorice can lead to nausea and diarrhoea. Chewing on the bark works best for most people. You can pick this up from any health food store.
- Peppermint is a natural stomach calmer and when mixed with ginger or liquorice, is meant to be extremely powerful. You can get peppermint as an essential oil, which you can use by dropping one drop on your tongue, temples and fore head, or you buy the leaves and place them in your water bottle to enjoy throughout the day.
- A great treatment, which is well known throughout the dive industry, is the accu-pressure wristband. These apply pressure to certain pressure points, which can help to alleviate dizziness, nausea and even vomiting.
Medication for travel sickness and motion sickness
When going out on a dive trip, it is recommended that you stay away from any medications that can make you drowsy or that can impair you in any way.
- Non-drowsy antihistamines have been known to aid symptoms of motion sickness, so trying them out is a good idea. Make sure you always follow the instructions and always read the label.
- Anti-nausea medication is a great way to relieve your symptoms fast. Make sure that they are non-drowsy and that you speak to your healthcare professional before trying as some can contradict medications that you may previously be on. The most well known antiemetic’s used amongst divers are Dramamine, Bonine and Meclizine which have been known to be effective. Always read the labels and warning signs on these medications, as individuals who are suffering with other illnesses may not be able to take them. Hyoscine is another common anti-sickness, which contains certain chemicals that should not be taken by people suffering with glaucoma. When choosing an anti-sickness medication, be smart and always check with your healthcare professional before taking.
If unfortunately you do suffer with motion sickness, then make sure to always replenish the nutrients lost by the body when vomiting and sweating. If you are prone to seasickness then always take with you a sachet of electrolytes that you can pour into your water to help avoid throwing up again and can help keep your strength up.