Sea Sickness & Seafarers

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“Nausea” in Greek means seasickness (naus means ship). Sea sickness is a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system’s sense of movement in the sea. Dizziness, fatigue and nausea are the most common symptoms of sea sickness. Sopite syndrome, in which a person feels fatigue or tiredness, is also associated with sea sickness. If the motion causing nausea is not resolved, the sufferer will usually vomit. Vomiting often will not relieve the feeling of weakness and nausea, which means the person might continue to vomit until the cause of the nausea is treated.

Effects of Sea Sickness

Seasickness is hardly fatal, but with symptoms such as nausea, stomach cramps and vomiting, it can certainly dampen the spirit of a seafarer and adversely impact his/her performance. Some people have a genuine proclivity for motion sickness and will undoubtedly suffer more during rough seas. Scientific studies have shown that some folks become seasick by suggestion or even the ‘thought’ of being seasick. They simply convince themselves that being on a ship will make them ill. On the other hand, for those who can forget about it, it’s often smooth sailing.

Tips to Overcome Sea Sickness

The single worst aspect of sea-sickness is not being able to stop it. Seasickness on a boat is never a major problem as it’s usually only a short trip to the nearest harbour but, in the middle of the ocean, your only option is to wait until the seas calm down. This can take days. To acclimate to shipboard life, it’s advisable to spend as much time as possible out on deck, using the horizon as a point to maintain your equilibrium. Position oneself in the middle of the ship (the natural balance point) is another option. Having a window also gives a seafarer a consistent view of the horizon point (unless the vessel is in stormy waters).

Drug-Free Remedies

If drugs are not preferred, there are plenty of other options and remedies to treat seasickness. Some swear by applying a Sea-Band wristband the minute they embark. The easy-to-wear, acupressure-inspired product has a plastic bead that presses against the Pericardium 6 (Nei-Kuan) pressure point located on the palm side of the wrist. Efficacious in curbing nausea and vomiting without any side effects, it comes in a variety of sizes. Sea-Bands are available without a prescription at major drug stores.

Handy Methods to Overcome Sea Sickness

  1. Healthy diet helps prevent seasickness
  2. Alcohol can make you sea-sick on dry land, the effects are worse in open ocean so avoid drinking at all costs.
  3. Carrot juice, apricot juice, citrus, prunes, mints, black horehound, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme are effective remedies.
  4. Aromatherapy – Spraying distilled water laced with lemon oil, cedar wood oil, dill oil, lavender oil or a few drops of spearmint, on the face helps.
  5. Avoid Books and Computer Screens
  6. Free your mind and body with work, keep oneself engaged or exercise to avoid getting sick.
  7. Stuffed and runny noses play havoc on the inner ear so clear the nasal passages.
  8. Sleep deprivation magnifies sea sickness. A short nap eases the situation.

Research Statistics

According to research, nearly 95% of trainees vomit in rough seas whereas 65% of them suffer from sea sickness at work. For vertical motion (heave), oscillation at a frequency of about 0.2 hz is the most provocative. Motion at 1 Hz is less than 1/10th as provocative. About 7% of seagoing passengers report vomiting during a journey. Women are more sensitive to motion than men, by a ratio of about 5:3. Women are more sensitive to motion around the times of their menstrual cycle. This may be due to interactions between migraine and motion sickness, researchers have stated.

Sea Sickness – Part of Work & Life for Seafarers

‘Mal de Mer’ is a rather pleasant and unassuming French term for the debilitating effect motion sickness may have on human being. Suffering from seasickness is a draining, debilitating and demoralising feeling. During this period, the sensory perception of the victim gets out of sync as the nerve fibers attempt to compensate for the unfamiliar motion of the ship moving through water. While the brain is being told by the vision system that the world is stable, but the inner ear contradicts this reflex.

The good news for sufferers is that the condition often disappears without medical treatment within a few days. As the brain learns to compensate for the swaying and pitching of the ship, the body gets accustomed to the sea legs. However, another aspect of the condition is that after a prolonged exposure to the sea it may take a while for a seafarer to adjust to being on terra firma again.

(Source: gCaptain, Cruise Critic, Life at SEA By: Nandkishore Gitte,

Sea News Feature, February 5