One concern that many new SCUBA divers and people considering diving often express is motion sickness. Some people are more prone to it than others, but most everyone deals with motion sickness at least once in their lives, and the memories are never very fond. Symptoms of motion sickness include nausea, vomiting, sweating, fatigue, and headaches, or just a general feeling of malaise, and can be serious enough for some to call the dive. While it is important to call the dive if you don’t feel comfortable for any reason, it would be a shame to continue calling dives on account of seasickness, or worse yet, quit diving altogether. Once you understand what causes motion sickness, you can choose from a variety of solutions for treatment and prevention in the future.
Motion sickness is caused by conflicting messages sent to the brain from the eyes, inner ear, and sensory nerves in regard to motion, which are all responsible for maintaining balance. When the brain receives these conflicting messages, the result is the unpleasant symptoms described above. There are three main causes of motion sickness:
- Motion that is seen but not felt
- Motion that is felt but not seen
- Motion that is seen and felt but the two do not correspond
In summary, your brain is very, very confused. As with most things in life, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so let’s discuss preventative techniques.
If you are prone to any kind of motion sickness, the best thing you can do for yourself is be prepared. Trying to deal with motion sickness after it sets in will always be more difficult than preventing it altogether.
- If you know they work for you, take your motion sickness medications well before you get on the dive boat. Most medications take about 30 minutes to absorb into your bloodstream.
- Even if you don’t like to eat a big meal before diving, putting something in your stomach will help combat any nausea. Foods like banana, cooked oats, granola, or bread are light and full of nutrients. It may be best to avoid caffeine.
- Avoid standing. Rather, sit toward the middle of the boat, where movement will be the most subtle. Try to keep from making jerky movements with your head, which can aggravate your symptoms.
- Keep your eyes trained on a spot on the horizon. This will help your eyes align with the motion detected by the inner ear so the brain gets the same message.
- Drink plenty of water before you get on the boat, and keep rehydrating if you start vomiting.
There may be a time when motion sickness arises unexpectedly, but fortunately there are simple tried and true methods to deal with it.
- Drink a carbonated beverage. Ginger ale is ideal for the calming properties of ginger on the stomach, but any carbonated beverage will do. It may seem uncouth, but belching really does help quell a nauseated tummy!
- Nibble on saltine crackers or pretzels.
- Suck on a peppermint or ginger lozenge. Sucking on ice cubes is a favorite solution for many divers, if available.
- Get some air. You can stand on the deck of a boat, in the middle of course, and keep concentrating on the horizon while breathing in deep lungfuls of fresh ocean air!
Motion sickness is a common problem for many divers, but it isn’t insurmountable. Follow these suggestions and keep a “seasickness kit” with you to make sure your dive isn’t done in by a little motion sickness!