HOW TO PREVENT AND TREAT MOTION- OR SEASICKNESS
Anyone who’s ever been sick to their stomach on a boat or plane knows the discomfort of motion- or seasickness.
And those who have experienced motion or seasickness can identify with the old saying: when you first get motion sickness you fear you’re going to die. And then as it continues you fear that you won’t die!
But what exactly is motion sickness?
Motion sickness is a generic term for the discomfort and associated vomiting induced by a variety of motion conditions aboard ships, aircraft, vehicles or zero gravity environments.
Seasickness caused by yacht motion can pose a serious problem for sailors. The affected person feels miserable and becomes incapacitated, and therefore a liability for others on a shorthanded boat. Repeated vomiting may also lead to dehydration.
About ninety percent of people who travel on sea or in the air will experience seasickness or motion sickness. It is therefore important to know how to prevent seasickness.
Despite decades of research, scientists and even NASA are still in the dark about the causes of motion sickness.
Current wisdom believes that sensory conflict is to blame. It occurs when your brain receives conflicting information from your body, eyes, and inner ear (which tells your brain how your head is moving). For example, if you’re on a yacht, your inner ear may detect a rolling motion that your eyes can’t see. Simply put, it’s caused by sensory mismatch, the brain gets confused by too many unexpected inputs.
Symptoms of motion sickness
Incessant yawning may be the first sign of motion sickness. Nausea and vomiting are common symptoms of motion sickness but it may also cause cold sweats, headaches, and pain.
Who’s at Risk?
References to seasickness date as far back as Ancient Greece. According to research, nearly all of the occupants of life rafts will vomit in rough seas and sixty percent of student aircrew members will suffer from air sickness during their training.
Women are more sensitive to motion than men and are forty percent more likely to experience seasickness. Evidence suggests that given the appropriate provocative conditions, almost all healthy individuals can develop seasickness. Indeed, it is estimated that as many as ninety percent of seafarers have suffered at least once, if not several times from seasickness.
Some people are a little more likely to get it than others:
- Women, especially when they’re menstruating, pregnant, or on hormone therapy
- People who suffer from migraines
- Children aged 2 – 12
- People who take certain kinds of medications such as some antibiotics, narcotics, asthma medicines and antidepressants.
Remedies for seasickness
Even with medical research studies and hundreds of years of experimentation, no single method or medication works for everyone.
But various methods do work for different people, so it’s mostly an issue of tackling the problem and determining what works best for you. In most cases, you should begin the remedy well in advance – before getting on the yacht.
Herewith a list of the latest technologies, medications and aids to stop and prevent seasickness:
Natural and Herbal remedies
Ginger is a natural remedy for nausea and suitable for mild cases of motion sickness. It is available in “natural” anti-nausea supplements that can be purchased from any pharmacy. Note that the ginger must be real ginger in a drink or in food, and not artificial ginger flavouring. Consult your doctor before taking ginger if you are on anticoagulant medication (blood thinners) or suffer from a heart condition.
This is an herbal remedy consisting of a blend of natural oils that is dabbed behind both ears. There are no side effects and this remedy can be combined with any of the others. It’s also safe for children and pregnant women. Visit the Motioneaze website for more information.
Fill a fine mist sprayer with distilled water, lemon oil, cedar wood oil, dill oil, lavender oil, and a few drops of spearmint and spray it lightly on your face.
Anti Motion Sickness Glasses by XPAND
NASA has conducted extensive research on the causes and treatments for motion sickness. One tested treatment is to wear special LCD shutter glasses. XPAND’s Anti Motion Sickness Glasses are electronic sunglasses that can reduce motion sickness while traveling by airplane, boat or driving. With excellent UV protection, the sunglasses have an electro-optical system that fights motion sickness in a non-invasive way. XPAND’s Anti Motion Sickness Glasses efficiently use shuttering lenses to reduce severity of motion sickness. When the motion sickness mode is enabled on the glasses, the electro-optical system is engaged and the electronic lenses start to strobe (both lenses becomes transparent and clear very fast) with a flash frequency of 4 Hz. The Anti Motion Sickness Glasses do not have any side effects.
Visit the XPAND website or order from Amazon ($192.00).
MotionCure by Sidis Labs
MotionCure developed by Sidis Labs is a neck brace that looks like an airplane travel pillow. It alleviates motion sickness symptoms through both pulsation technology and magnetics. A series of pulses are transmitted to the brain through both the median nerve at the back of the neck and the inner ear’s vestibular which gives your brain a sense of motion, equilibrium and spatial orientation. Additionally, the MotionCure creates a negative magnetic field that surrounds the neck and the base of the brain where motion sickness-related signals are first intercepted. MotionCure is a ground-breaking new device that has successfully integrated both NASA research and the latest scientific breakthroughs without any side-affects. It is best used before the symptoms begin, but you can use it at the onset and feel better in minutes.
Order from the Sidis Labs website or Amazon ($150.00).
Boarding Ring Glasses
The glasses’ unique design enables your eye to receive the missing ‘movement’ information. The blue liquid inside the ringed frame follows the movement of your body. The brain receives the information it needs and the sickness is avoided. This movement is recorded by your peripheral vision only and therefore does not impede on central ‘voluntary’ vision. Put them on when you feel queasy (not before) and take them off when feeling better. Repeat as needed. You should not take any medicine at the same time. Boarding Ring Glasses are worn like normal glasses and can be used over ophthalmic and sunglasses. It is also available for children and has no side effects. Winner of the DAME design award in 2013, the most prestigious international design competition for new marine equipment and accessories.
Visit the Boarding Ring website or order from Amazon ($192.00).
Reliefband is a clinically proven wearable technology band for the treatment of nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness, morning sickness and VR Gaming. The technology is technically known as neuromodulation, which uses neural pathways in the body to block the waves of nausea coming from the stomach. Neuromodulation generates signals that go to the user’s central nervous system to the part of the brain responsible for the feeling of nausea. The Relief Band should be worn on the Nei-Kuan P6 point (see wrist bands) on your wrist and press the button to activate the electric signals to a level that is comfortable for you. Coming soon: the Reliefband Neurowave.
Visit the Reliefband website or order from Amazon ($94.99).
Anti-Seasickness wrist bands come in two varieties; acupressure and magnetic. They work by applying pressure to a point on your wrist known as the Nei-Kuan (P6) acupressure point. From your wrist crease on the palm side of your arm, measure three finger widths or two thumb widths up your arm, between the two tendons – that is the pressure point.
The stud on the wristband must be positioned facing downwards over the P6 point. If you feel the bands are not working for you then try adjusting them slightly, to see if this gives relief. With the exception of BioBands, you should use both wrist bands at the same time – one on each wrist. If you do start to feel queasy while wearing the bands, then gently press down on the stud to increase the pressure.
If you do not have a wrist band, use your thumb to press down on the pressure point and hold for a few minutes, until the symptoms subside.
Although acupressure bands don’t cause any side effects, there’s little scientific evidence to show they’re an effective treatment for motion sickness and there’s no evidence magnetic devices marketed for motion sickness relief do any good. Some experienced seafarers say that acupressure bands are the sailor’s equivalent of lucky heather or hare’s feet charms.
The use of an airtight fit ear plug placed in the non-dominant ear (left ear for a right-handed person, right ear for a left-handed person) is apparently an easy and effective cure for motion sickness. After inserting the ear plug, symptoms should disappear in a few minutes. Some reports say the ear that is used is not critical.
Visit the Lapponia Ltd website for more information or order from Amazon (£19.95).
The Puma Method
The Puma Method consists of habituation exercises that promise to totally eliminate all motion sickness and is completely free of side effects. It has been developed by Dr. Sam Puma, former NASA flight surgeon and USAF pilot and physician. Dr Puma’s method involves doing a series of head, neck and upper body exercises for approximately 15 minutes per day for two weeks. No special equipment or devices are required. Dr Puma claims that once you have completed the course of exercises your motion sickness will be overcome for life. The program does need commitment and perseverance to complete, especially as the exercises work by triggering mild symptoms of motion sickness.
Order from the Puma Method website. Available as a video download ($39.95) or on DVD ($49.95).
The Puma Method video (not sure if this is only a part or the whole) is currently available on YouTube:
Nevasic (previously Travelwell) is a non-language audio program which should be listened to on headphones as soon as you experience the first hint of motion sickness. Nevasic claims to eliminate the symptoms of motion sickness by stabilizing the balance receptors in the inner ear. This unique specialist audio programme contains specific tones, frequencies and pulses concealed by an over-layer of music that can relieve or dispel the symptoms of nausea and vomiting. Many of the frequencies and pulses that desensitise the Vestibular system are bordering our recognizable audio spectrum, but still have a profound effect on the ear. Nevasic has no side effects. It seems to work very well for pregnant women with morning sickness but whether it will prove itself on rough seas remain to be seen.
Order from the Nevasic website. Available on CD (£23.39) or as a downloadable iPhone or Android app (£9.99).
Scopolamine Transdermal Patch (Hyoscine)
This is an anti-nausea patch that is placed directly on your skin behind your ear, and it absorbs through your skin into your bloodstream. It looks like a little round Band-Aid behind your ear. It is available over-the-counter at your local pharmacy and generally considered to be the most powerful and most effective anti-seasickness medication. It’s thought to work by blocking some of the nerve signals sent from the vestibular system. Because it is a slow-release patch, apply the patch at least four hours before travel. It has a long-lasting effect for up to three days. The great thing about the patch is that it continues working even after you start to vomit. Side effects may include drowsiness, blurred vision, disorientation, anxiety, hallucinations and psychosis. Prolonged use of the patch for weeks can lead to hallucinations. Wash your hands thoroughly after applying, as the medication can temporarily blur your vision if it gets in your eyes. Test this product at home first before travelling to find if the product will affect you negatively. Scopolamine should also be used with caution in children, the elderly, and if you have certain conditions such as epilepsy or a history of heart, kidney or liver problems.
Dramamine (Dimenhydrinate or Gravol)
Dramamine is used to prevent nausea, vomiting, and dizziness caused by any kind of motion sickness. It will work 99 percent better when taken before you might experience motion sickness. Dramamine is an antihistamine which is used to treat symptoms of allergies, but can also help to control nausea and vomiting. Dramamine blocks the effects of a neurotransmitter on the inner ear which helps maintain your sense of balance and position. Side effects may include drowsiness.
Mecilizine HCL is a marginally stronger than the regular Dramamine. Please consult your doctor as this is one of the best options for those prone to motion sickness.
Bonine is essentially an antihistamine. It may cause drowsiness. Take Bonine the night before your trip and another dose in the morning before you travel.
Some dosages such as 15mg and 75mg tablets may not be available everywhere, but are readily available in many countries including the UK or from www.CanadaDrugsOnline.com.
Stugeron is claimed by many sailors to be more effective than Dramamine or Bonine and reportedly works even after you have started feeling dizzy.
People with a history of suffering from migraines are more susceptible to motion sickness. Medical studies have showed that patients who were prone to migraines responded well to Rizatriptan. Experts suspect that the same part of the brainstem plays a role in both conditions. The medication may fend off nausea by regulating serotonin, which is thought to be linked to migraine pain. Take the recommended dose about two hours before travel. Side effects can include a dry mouth and drowsiness.
Dosages of 5, 10 or 25mg suppositories (not oral) have proven to be the most effective prescription anti-nausea and anti-anxiety medication that (importantly) does not cause drowsiness. As anxiety, can cause nausea and since Compazine treats both it is an important drug to carry aboard. Suppositories are far more effective than tablets once vomiting has started.
Who would better understand motion sickness than NASA? The agency has done extensive research on motion sickness to find ways that could help the astronauts work in space stations without getting nauseated. Astronauts often experience motion sickness in space. As a result, NASA has conducted extensive research into the causes and treatments for the condition. The NASA Space Center and Epiomed Therapeutics Inc. have signed an agreement in 2012 to develop and commercialize a NASA-crafted, fast-acting nasal spray to fight motion sickness. Epiomed will formulate the drug, called intranasal scopolamine, or INSCOP. Epiomed Therapeutics Inc. seems to have closed down and INSCOP is unfortunately still not commercially available at the time of this writing.
How to prevent seasickness
- Stay close to the middle of the vessel. The middle has less motion than the bow and stern.
- Look at the horizon. The stationary horizon will always appear still and in the same place. Your brain will recognize the stillness and your inner ear then regains its balance and the seasick feeling subsides.
- Eat carbohydrates and avoid heavy, fatty, or spicy foods.
- Refrain from alcoholic or caffeinated drinks and substitute with water. Adding lemon to your water may also help to alleviate symptoms.
- Avoid thinking about feeling seasick and stay active.
- If you are on a boat or a yacht with a swimming pool you can reduce the water’s motion by submersing yourself in it!
- Avoid other seasick people. A sure-fire way to get seasick is to watch other people getting sick.
- Ensure your ears are clean. Wax build-up in your ear has been reported to lead to motion sickness.
- Open windows to allow fresh air or move to the top deck of a yacht. Stay out of the heat.
- Stuffed and runny noses play havoc on the inner ear. Clear the nasal passages with a nasal decongestant.
- Sleep deprivation magnifies the occurrence of motion sickness because (according to US Navy research) it interferes with the vestibular system habituation process in the ears.
- Monitor your breathing – hyperventilation can lead to lightness of head and induce many of the symptoms of seasickness. Take deep, controlled breaths and stay calm to prevent hyperventilating. If you still can’t stop then breathing into a paper bag may help.
- Avoid books and computer screens. Otherwise read small passages at a time with frequent breaks to look up towards the horizon.
Most yachts now have stabilizers both while cruising and at anchor which means the yacht won’t rock all over the place. If you are prone to seasickness, please ask your Charter Broker to find you a charter yacht with stabilizers.
Yacht stabilizers are fins or rotors mounted beneath the waterline and emerging laterally from the hull to reduce a yacht’s roll due to wind or waves. Active fins are controlled by a gyroscopic control system. When the gyroscope senses the ship roll, it changes the fins’ angle to exert force to counteract the roll.
Having this technology on board will make cruising and time at anchor more enjoyable, especially for those that are prone to seasickness.
The following types of stabilizers are available:
Gyroscopic (gyro) stabilizers (Suitable for high speed yachts.)
Mounted low in a boat’s hull, gyroscopes will reduce a boat’s roll significantly. Modern control–movement gyros are spun up inside a vacuum to eliminate air resistance and offer lower power requirements.
Fixed fin stabilizers
Fixed-fins are commonly used where space within the hull is limited.
Retractable fin stabilizers
Fins can be retracted to inside the hull as to combat some of the disadvantages of a fixed fin. The control of the fin movement is automatic and is usually derived from gyroscopic sensing gears.
The RotorSwing Magnus was invented for roll damping while cruising at low throttle as well as a Zerospeed option at anchor. It consists of rapidly rotating Magnus effect cylinders which generate an enormous upward or downward damping force.
Zero-speed stabilizers (used for yachts at anchor)
To reduce roll at anchor, yachts would require a form of zero-speed stabilisation. Some good stabilisation systems available may include a fin stabilisation system or a gyro system.
These stabilizers are a great way to reduce the rolling and pitching on a yacht and therefore reduce the effect of seasickness. Therefore ask your yacht charter broker to get you a yacht with stabilizers to ensure a more comfortable sail.
Videos demonstrating stabilizers:
Please note that all listed prices were correct at the time of this writing and might change in future. (Feb 2017)