Seasickness, motion sickness remedies: My real-life results on curing the nausea - Dramamine, Bonine, Marezine, Scopolamine Patch, Motion Eaze, ginger root, wristbands.
Folks, I'm *very* motion-sickness prone. As a kid I got carsick. I tried a rollercoaster. Just once!
I sail with a nonprofit group that takes inner-city kids out on "tall ships" to show them a different life than what they see on the city streets. I found I get seasick very easily.
So my experience has been on sailing ships and small boats - rowboats, dories, kayaks etc. But it should apply just as well to airplanes, riding in cars and the like.
I've tried lots of things to cure the problem: Dramamine, Bonine, the Scopolamine Patch, herbal cures, ginger root, ginger candy, wristbands (passive and electronic), etc. I hope to save you time finding what works for you.
I started out by going on a 1-day sail with the group 2-3 times a month. On each trip I'd try something new to see if it would help my sea sickness. Most things didn't work for me. And every "failure" resulted in me barfing over the rail. I hate doing that in front of an audience of a bunch of teenage kids and my fellow crewmembers.
If you've found this page, you likely know the feeling. Here's what I've learned.
The first pill I tried was an over-the-counter (in the U.S. anyway) medicine called "Bonine." I was told it ALWAYS works.
The good news is that it's chewable (no swallowing problems) and it doesn't taste bad. The bad news is that it didn't work for me. Not one pill, not two, not three. And at three I was over the recommended dose and wasn't feeling too good just from that. But try it, it's cheap, and if it works for you, great!
There are two types - the standard type, and the "non-drowsy" type. I didn't try the standard type - I don't want to be dealing with whipping sails and sick kids and booms swinging my way while I'm drowsy. No thanks! The "non-drowsy" type is the identical formula as Bonine. So I figured that test wasn't worth repeating.
- GINGER ROOT:
This stuff comes in pill form and is supposed to fight nausea really well. The woman behind me in line at the health-food store where I got some capsules guaranteed me it would really do the trick.
Guess what? WRONG! No effect that I could see. Again, easy to try, so give it a shot. It might work for you.
- GINGER CANDY:
I guess you can get this in the "ethnic foods" sections of some stores. It looks like "thick potato chips covered with brown sugar." It tastes DREADFUL. A few of the kids on the boats have told me it helped. Most have said the taste was so awful it made them even more likely to throw up. You have been warned.
- MOTION EAZE:
This is made of "natural oils". You dab it on the side of your neck, under/behind your ear. It's absorbed through the skin. The local nautical supplies store told me they sell lots of it, and get many repeat sales. And that people swear by it. Didn't work for me. (Sigh - I seem to be an unusual case.) Might work for you.
THIS WORKS FOR ME!! YAY!!! I finally found a solution I can live with. It's non-prescription, too. Not all drug stores carry it, I get mine at the local Camelot Drugs store. The directions say one pill every 4-6 hours, no more than 4 per 24-hour period. I've found I have to take two at once, at least 4 hours before I'll be on the water. Then I seem virtually immune to seasickness!! On really rough days I'll take a third pill about 5 hours after the first two. Then I'm good for the whole sailing day. Side-effects are *very* minor for me -- barely-noticeable dry-mouth, and that's it. *Nothing* like the Scopolamine Patch's side-effects. I can barely tell if I've taken it or not.
While testing Marezine I've taken as many as four within a 6-hour period, with no problems or significant side-effects. Your results may vary, exceed the recommended dosage at your own risk -- and work up gradually, watching for any untoward side-effects.
I understand that Marezine works on a slightly different pathway than the other seasickness medicines, and I can believe it. I'm also hearing more good things about it from other folks I sail with. Recommended!
- ELASTIC WRIST BANDS:
I've tried the elastic wrist bands with the bumps on the inside. They apply pressure to the insides of your wrists, supposedly blocking nausea signals to the brain somehow.
I've examined two versions of bands: the Sea Band and the Queaz-Away brands. The two products appear identical to me. Both are fixed-pressure types that use an elastic band. There's also an adjustable-pressure band type, with Velcro (TM) type adjustments, called the AcuBand Adjustable Acupressure Wrist Strap.
I've tried both the SeaBand and QueazAway bands. Neither seemed to help me very much. But I've never tried them alone, only in combination with other things. They're cheap, and they might work for you.
I haven't tried the Acu-Band adjustable type, so I can't say if it's better. It sounds as if it should be, though.
I was sailing with a group of kids recently, and the water was rough enough that about 1/3 of them were seasick. I gave out a few elastic wrist bands (both Quease Away and SeaBand types) and the kids said they helped, some.
- ELECTRONIC WRIST BANDS:
I can only give you hearsay about these so far. A fellow crewmember saw a young girl use them, when she was already seasick. Folks, *nothing* helps once you're already sick. Or so I thought. The guy told me that within just a minute, her seasickness was GONE. I haven't seen it myself, yet. And these things are fairly expensive. I've got one on order, but I don't have it yet. It's called the Relief Band Explorer motion-sickness device. I've heard the ReliefBand type bands work really well if they work at all, and I'll tell you how it works for me once I get it. In the meantime, if YOU try them and they work for you, please e-mail me (see the bottom of this page) and let me know! Thanks.
Late Update: I tried mine at the start of this year's sailing season. Bottom line: It doesn't do anything for me at all. I've gotten reports from other people that it's worked for their friends and relatives; and I've gotten other reports that it did nothing for some folks. My experience is that I can feel it working -- tingling down the nerves of the wrist and hand -- but it has no effect on my nausea, either in my "spin on the driveway" test or out on the boats. It works for some people, but not for me.
- THE SCOPOLAMINE PATCH:
This WORKED for me! Yay!! You stick it on the side of your neck, just below either ear. After 4 hours enough has built up in your bloodstream to be effective. It pretty much eliminates seasickness for me. I can watch the boat pitching and yawing and rolling, and simply not care. Ho hum.
The negatives: It needs a doctor's prescription. It's expensive (about US$8 per patch) although one patch will last 3 days. And it gives me a really bad case of "dry mouth". It also dries up stomach secretions, so my taste buds and digestion are both screwed up, which continues for about 8 hours after I remove the patch.
- NON-MEDICAL THINGS THAT MAY HELP:
I've picked up a lot of tips along the way of things that make the problem better. Here's the list, see which ones work for you:
- Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout your sail/flight/etc.
- Keep warm. When you're cold you're tensed up, which doesn't help.
- Get a good night's sleep the night before. I'm told this is the #1 tip.
- No greasy food the previous night. ESPECIALLY seafood (insert ironic comment here).
- No drinking the night before. You'll regret it a LOT when you're on the boat.
- Stay up on deck. Going below makes things much worse.
- Sit in the middle of the boat. You'll experience the least pitching motion there.
- Watch the horizon, or the waves ahead of the boat.
- DON'T stare at the deck, or down at the water rushing by, or up at the rigging.
- Try to relax.
Testing what works without going sailing:
To avoid too many "hey kids, watch me vomit" sessions, I've come up with a test that lets me evaluate roughly how well a possible "cure" will work for me:  I take the pill, or whatever. I give it time to take effect. Then I go out on my driveway or backyard and spin around and around 10-20 times, or until I fall down. When I can barely stand up, I do so. If I'm nauseated, the cure didn't work. If I'm better than usual, it partly worked. If there's only a second or so of nausea, maximum, it worked pretty darn well. To see if this test will help you, try it without taking anything. If you're sick when you stand back up, you've got a good test to use.
The etiquette of barfing:
THE MOST IMPORTANT RULE: If you're on a ship, "feed the fish" over the lee rail. On a sailboat, that's the lower of the two, when the ship is heeling. It's the one where the wind is at your BACK. Folks, this is really important. You only have to throw up into the wind ONCE to have the lesson forever engraved in your memory. The stuff gets on your face, in your hair, on your clothes - and onto others around you or downwind of you.
If someone else is being sick, give them "effective privacy" to do it--pay attention to something else. If you see them getting queasy, give what advice you can. Offer to go get them a paper towel for "just in case" so they can wipe their face off afterward. Once they've slowed down, get a fresh paper towel and offer it to them.
Almost all sailors--no matter how experienced--get seasick at times. It just takes the right wave conditions to trigger it. For me, being in a dory, a rowboat, or a small kayak doesn't seem to bother me - at least inside the harbor. But outside the breakwater it's a different story.
And, going beyond just being sick, here's something that'll keep you from being LOST on the water:
Marine GPS with Man Overboard Button
I'd like your comments! If you can think of remedies to add, let me know.
Drop me a note.
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