It never ceases to amaze me, how many people proudly confess these words to me. If only it were true. The reality, in fact, is that most people do suffer from seasickness to varying degrees.
After years of personally battling seasickness, I can definitely offer sympathy to whoever gets sick. In its most severe form, seasickness is, after all, a debilitating condition. However, after witnessing hundreds of cases of seasickness and personally trying a number of preventatives and treatments, I believe that I can offer some authority on the subject.
When it comes to seasickness, prevention is clearly better than cure. There is, after all, no real cure for this condition, however there are steps that can be taken to lessen the effects.
Anti seasickness medication is a great preventative, however, it needs to be taken well in advance of feeling any effects of seasickness. If you already feel sick, it is too late to take medication. There is a range of both over the counter and prescription medications for seasickness, however you should always consult with your pharmacist or doctor prior to taking any such medication and definitely emphasize that you want to dive on this medication. Some medications can make you drowsy, dry mouthed or even affect your vision and, it is therefore essential, that you consult appropriately prior to taking any such medication. Whilst my sea legs are much better than they used to be, if I am expecting rough weather (25 knots or above) I will always take anti seasickness medication just to be safe. In very rough seas, I may still get mild seasickness, however, the effects are much less than if I take no medication.
Many people firmly believe that eating or drinking products that contain ginger or even peppermint help in settling a seasick stomach. There is also a range of herbal based anti seasickness drugs (usually ginger based) that may help in prevention. In my experience, the herbal tablets are a poor substitute for the non-herbal based medications, however, still worth a try.
A common treatment on dive boats is administering ice cubes to the patient to suck on. I am not sure what the reasoning behind such ice treatments is, other than the fact that dive operators are highly unlikely to be sued for administering what is perceived to be a harmless product! However, I have found that in some cases, this method does help, if anything, it takes the patients mind away from being sick to focusing on the ice cube!
I would definitely recommend that prior to your boat journey, ensure that you are fully hydrated and have lined your stomach with some sort of light meal. Toasted bread or something similar is a safe choice. I would suggest avoiding any sort of fatty foods such as bacon, cheese, croissants or dairy products, and definitely avoid anything acidic such as fruit juice, coffee or fruit, in particular, pineapple.
If you do feel sick on a boat, being outside in the fresh air is the best bet. Avoid being inside, particularly on smaller boats where conditions may be hot and cramped. Outside, on the back deck is the best place where the boat movement is likely to be less than on a top deck. Try and stay away from any diesel fumes which may make you feel more nauseous. Look ahead at the horizon so that you have a reference point for the movement. Place yourself on the leeward side of the boat just in case you do vomit as being on the windward side will result in your vomit being blown back onto you! Remember to hold on, I am sure that many skippers will be able to recall man overboard stories as a result of seasickness. Don’t put yourself in danger.
For some reason, I always suffer less from seasickness when I am working on a boat rather than diving for fun. I am not sure what the reason behind this is, the only key difference is that when I am working I am running around busying myself and do not have time to think too much about seasickness. With this in mind, I suggest getting outside, setting your gear up, talking to people and generally staying busy.
Once at your dive destination, thoroughly assess your wellbeing. In most cases, after a rough journey, I cannot wait to get into the water, as I know I will immediately feel 100% better for it! However, with diving, it is always best to air on the side of caution, so if you really do not feel up for it, sit the dive out. If it’s rough on the surface, descend a few metres below the surface as quickly as possible, where you will be neutrally buoyant and no longer subjected to the motion on the surface. Assuming you do go diving and feel nauseous on your dive, leave your regulator in at all times. Regulators are designed to be vomited into, so go ahead and vomit straight into your reg, you can use the purge button to purge out the dregs. The first thing that anyone wants to do after vomiting is take a big gulp of air in so it is essential that your regulator stays put to avoid any problems associated with swallowing water.
You should be aware that seasickness could kick in during your dive, so be prepared. I have been known to vomit on my safety stops whilst looking at kelp wash forwards and backwards for 3 minutes!
The key to seasickness is really attempting to minimize the impact. As I have already stated, there is no real cure but some of the suggestions here should help minimize the impact. Time spent at sea will also help, if you can persist with seasickness, it is likely to get less severe with sea experience. Remember, if all else fails, there are some fantastic shore dives around!