Excerpts from Michael Donahue’s December 2004 article in Birding
Seasickness occurs when your brain perceives conflicting signals between what your eyes are seeing and your sense of balance. Anyone can get seasick although some people are more prone to it than others. Sea conditions can influence if you get seasick but so can how you prepare for your trip and the measures you take not to get seasick.
Many birders swear by scopolamine patches, which are worn behind the ear. They are available only by prescription. The most common side effect is a dry mouth. Less common are drowsiness and blurred vision. Dimenhydrinate and meclizine HCL are popular medications readily available over the counter. They are better known as Dramamine and Bonine, respectively, but you may see generic forms of these two drugs in the drug store. Drowsiness is the most-common side effect of these two drugs.
It’s important to remember that some medications need to be taken before the trip. It’s also important to take them as directed, and to read through the side effects and warnings listed on the package before you take it. For example, all of these medications caution against consuming alcohol while taking the drug, and they shouldn’t be used if you have problems urinating. Check with your doctor if you aren’t sure.
Acupressure is an alternative to medication. To control nausea, pressure is applied to the inside of the wrist by wearing an elastic wrist band with bumps on the inside. These bumps touch a pressure point and block nausea signals from being sent to the brain. They are available at most drug stores. There is also an electronic wrist band (called ReliefBand) that uses electronic signals to stimulate the nerves to the wrist. It was initially designed to help manage morning sickness, but has now been FDA-approved to treat motion sickness as well.
Tips to Avoid Seasickness
- First, once you are on board, don’t think about getting sick. Seasickness is certainly a physical ailment, but don’t underestimate the psychological component.
- Get plenty of sleep the night before the trip.
- Dress warm, preferably in layers so you can adjust to the conditions.
- Stay out of enclosed spaces like the cabin, take deep breaths of fresh air and look at the horizon.
- Eat something in the morning, but stay away from a big breakfast.
- Snack during the trip. Crackers, bagels, and of course ginger snap cookies are some suggestions.
- Stay hydrated. Drink at least as much as you would normally. If you get sick, stay outside and drink plenty of fluids.
- Avoid alcohol in any significant quantities the night before.
- Keep yourself occupied. If there isn’t a lot of bird activity, talk with other birders or spotters. Birders are a friendly bunch and most of us would love to talk to others about birds.
Finally, being well rested and keeping yourself as physically comfortable as possible can make the difference. Talk to your friends about what has worked for them. Don’t let the threat of sickness keep you from heading offshore.
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