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Seasickness: preventions and treatments

Seasickness—the confusion between what your eyes see and what your brain thinks it should be—can be anything from mild queasiness to overwhelming nausea, dizziness, and vomiting.

It affects millions of people annually, during all kinds of water travel (and all types of weather)—from simple, small boat rides on a river to large cruises.

Many travelers may never experience seasickness symptoms, while others feel ill during a simple ferry ride on totally calm seas.

The important thing to remember is that with proper understanding and preparation, many symptoms can be prevented or treated, and seasickness should not deter you from any type of travel you desire.

Even the Drake Passage, the notorious crossing between South American and Antarctica, can be conquered with proper preparation and/or medications.

If you have a history of seasickness or are worried you may experience it, plan ahead for your trip. Choose a larger ship (with onboard stabilizers) if possible, and request a window cabin that is on a lower deck and located close to the center of the ship.

If seas get rough, stay above deck (so you can see the horizon) and go outside occasionally (if safety is not an issue) for fresh air.

While dining on board, aim to eat lightly, staying away from heavy or greasy foods, sweets, and alcohol when possible.

Foods like green apples (Granny Smith) and salted crackers may help mild symptoms, as can ginger-based lozenges, extracts, and teas. Many ships even routinely stock these items for travelers.

There are also a variety of modern techniques and medicines to help prevent or treat seasickness.

Non-drug methods like the Sea Band wristbands (that exert pressure on the nei-kuan pressure point) are very popular.

There is even an app called Nevasic, an audio program that promises symptom relief—downloadable to your phone or tablet.

If you prefer over-the-counter or a doctor-prescribed medication, there are several options.

Dramamine (dimenhydrinate), the most well-known, is a 24-hour option that comes in regular or non-drowsy formulas, for both children and adults, and should be taken before travel begins to be most effective.

Bonine (meclizine), another common OTC option, is used the same way as Dramamine with similar side effects like drowsiness.

The most common prevention for more severe seasickness is Transderm Scop (scopolamine), a small round patch placed on the skin just behind the ear. Applied eight hours before travel, the patch can last up to three days and can be amazingly effective for many users.

Like other medications though, it too can have side effects, ranging from dry mouth and drowsiness to dizziness and blurred vision.

Once the patch is removed, side effects usually wear off quickly. It has often been called the “must-have” companion for areas of the world with known rough seas.

And there are even more options in the form of stronger, doctor-prescribed medications that are now available, should you need them.

The best way to know how, and what you might need, is to visit your doctor before your trip to discuss what is the best option for you—based on your past travel history and the type of cruise travel you have planned.

Plan ahead and bon voyage!