Have you been seasick before?

What to do with seasickness in combination with diving? A question that I often see on the necessary social media dive groups. Many reactions from people who are either very bothered by it or who have never experienced it. In addition, I see it a lot with our guests, I estimate about 25-40% suffer from it, but what is it actually? And what can you do about it? And do you have to do something about it or will it go away on its own?

Clownfish

Big or small, fat or thin, old or young, anyone can get seasickness. I myself am a victim as soon as I get on a very large ferry and there is a small wave, but so far I have not encountered it personally with dive ships. A doctor on one of my trips explained to me that seasickness is not a disease at all. There is no moment of infection and no disease picture that develops. It is a condition that we humans face depending on the circumstances. These circumstances have to do with your own fitness, but also with the length of the ship in combination with the length and height of the waves. But also with how the ship moves on those waves, something that is different, for example, if you sail against the waves or with them.

Bannerfish

Take Charlie for example, he came on board with his mate Stephan for a wonderful week of diving from the liveaboard. The men were already full of the upcoming adventures when they arrived, but on the first day of diving their moods became somewhat depressed. Charlie wasn’t feeling well and after the first dive he chose his cabin over sitting on the deck or going for another dive later that day. His buddy Stephan reported to me that he was ill, probably a flu or something and Charlie preferred to be in his bed. Of course I went to have a look, but Charlie didn’t want anything and wanted to be left alone. Well no problem and from that moment on I mainly kept in touch with Stephan. Also on the second day of diving, our seasick guest dropped all dives and that was very unfortunate. Yes of course you have to be fit to dive and so just diving because you have paid for it is not smart (and it never is), but still. We can often make your life a little more pleasant on board through the small things in life. Regularly a cup of tea, something like toast or rice or even a fresh chicken soup. But Charlie didn’t want to hear about it at all and lay in the dark under his duvet. And on the morning of the third day of diving, Stephen came to me and reported that he suspected it was seasickness and not the flu. Charlie suffered from cold sweats, nausea, and a tendency to vomit, especially when we were sailing. But he said, Charlie doesn’t believe it because of his 25 year career in the off-shore and the fact that he had never been seasick during all those years. Ahhhhh… but what isn’t can always come when it comes to seasickness. Everyone can suffer from it and so I went to talk to Charlie with Stephan.

A tiny fan coral

Seasickness is a condition, as the doctor had explained to me (hope I word it correctly), in which the brain does not understand what is going on. The body is in motion but does not move itself and that is not understood by your body. It triggers a reaction where the brain reacts as if poison is involved and so the body tries to dump everything it can in hopes of getting rid of the poison. And so you vomit until your stomach comes out and you get a huge cold sweat where the giddiness doesn’t make it any easier. And from what I understand everyone has this reaction, but we differ in the circumstances that we need to trigger it. So the type of movement and the extent to which your brain really understands that movement. So it is a form of motion sickness and really anyone can get it, including you. For example, do you know the moment when you have wobbly legs after being on a boat? It is the same and a light form of it.

Well, we can all get it and it happens to a lot of people. But what can you do about it now? First of all if you have seasickness realize that it is motion sickness. And it’s best to treat before you get the movement. In other words, a tablet or patch has the most effect before you get on board or before the boat starts sailing. If you are now a huge victim of seasickness, be smart to start medication early, for example a day before you get on board. It takes time and medication to build up the amount of the active ingredient in the body. And if you are caught on board by seasickness, go to a place to minimize movement and that is amidships on the waterline. Also help your brain by looking at the horizon so that you get a fixed reference and at least try something to drink when the boat moves less

.With a major attack of seasickness you vomit enormously and you have the feeling that you even spit out your stomach. That also means that you lose a lot of moisture in combination with sweating. And dehydration makes you feel even worse, plus a potentially dangerous situation in the context of diving when you think of decompression sickness. So as soon as you can drink something, some water, cup of mint tea or ginger and some even swear by coke (just a matter of trying). With a major attack of seasickness you vomit enormously and you have the feeling that you even spit out your stomach. That also means that you lose a lot of moisture in combination with sweating. And dehydration makes you feel even worse, plus a potentially dangerous situation in the context of diving when you think of decompression sickness. So as soon as you can drink something, some water, cup of mint tea or ginger and some even swear by coke (just a matter of trying). With a major attack of seasickness you vomit enormously and you have the feeling that you even spit out your stomach. That also means that you lose a lot of moisture in combination with sweating. And dehydration makes you feel even worse, plus a potentially dangerous situation in the context of diving when you think of decompression sickness. So as soon as you can drink something, some water, cup of mint tea or ginger and some even swear by coke (just a matter of trying).

Pygmy seahorse

I know from experience that seasickness will eventually goes away on its own, it just takes time. Yes of course as soon as the ship is stationary it is over, but that is not what I mean. What I mean is that it takes 2-3 days and then it passes, if those are long days of course. And so on week trips that we do by boat, we encounter seasickness in the first 2-3 days, after that it’s over. If you suddenly get seasickness after being on board for a few days, you have to be careful especially if you’ve been diving. Please stay alert and in that case ask for help immediately, because chances are it is something else like decompression sickness, but that’s another story. In any case, seasickness usually does not start in the middle of the trip, but as soon as the boat starts sailing at the beginning.

Resources that help are seasickness tablets and especially the stickers. Take it with you from the Netherlands, so that you know that you have it and that you are sure that it is of good quality. But not everyone wants to take this medication, because it often makes you sleepy and drowsy. Alternatives are the use of ginger, fresh in a tea or in the form of tablets, although they do not remove the seasickness, but combat the unpleasant feeling and you do not become drowsy. But whatever you prefer, make sure you are prepared, start on time with any medication, that you are fit before you travel and above all inform your guide if you start to suffer from it. And if you are not sure or if you want more information, please visit your doctor.

Love life… blow bubbles…

Anke Westerlaken