I like to fish when I have a rare day off
and my honey-do's are done. Rarely do the seas cooperate.
Unfortunately, some of my fishing buddies get very seasick
in less than ideal conditions. Not being fond of going fishing
alone, I try my best to get some of those fishing buddies
help before the misery starts and the "chumming"
During my research for this article, I have come across too many
motion sickness remedies to list. I have also tried many of the
remedies over the years, often with limited success. I have also
come to realize many people try some types of motion sickness
treatment with no success at all and then determine fishing out
of a boat is just not for them. Unfortunately, my wife falls into
I am not going to say the widely advertised wrist bands, bracelets
and watches intended for the prevention of motion sickness are
bogus. But I will say I have not experienced very good results
using them on my boating expeditions. I have also not seen any
published data reporting the efficacy of these remedies. I will,
instead, focus on remedies and preventative measures that are
known to work for the prevention of motion sickness.
The first thing you can do is to take better care of yourself.
By this I mean getting intoxicated or being fatigued before going
boating is just not a good idea. Also, staying as cool as you
can while you are out there is paramount. A good way to do this
for us boaters who don't have air conditioning is to use
an insect sprayer filled with water to mist yourself and cool
down when you feel yourself over-heating. (I'm sure that
I don't need to say this, but ... make sure nothing
other than water has ever been in the sprayer!) Drinking copious
amounts of cold water will also help you from succumbing to sea
sickness especially when it is hot and there's not a ripple
of wind. Drinking caffeinated or alcoholic beverages while boating
or in the heat of the day can cause dehydration and thus lower
resistance to becoming seasick.
However, if you are one of those unfortunate individuals that
get seasick despite doing all of the above, there are some medications
that can help you if used properly. The key word in the above
sentence is: properly. Many individuals feel some medications
just don't work for them. I believe this is probably true
but more often; I think the medications must not have been taken
properly. There are some individuals who should not be taking
many of the motion sickness medications at all. I will try to
expand on that further in the article.
The Cause (over-simplified version)
Motion sickness results from confusing and contradicting information
being sent to the brain. Your inner ear has a sensory organ that
helps in the control of balance and spatial orientation (your
position with respect to gravity.) Your eyes also play a role
in this control although to a lesser extent (which is why you
can still walk with your eyes closed). When you are sloshing around
in a boat, your ears and eyes are sending your brain all kinds
of incorrect information. This in turn makes some of us sick!
Dimenhydrinate is known to most of us as Dramamine, in the original
formulation. For most, it has been a great standby if taken well
in advance. In fact, I believe it works best if taken before you
go to bed and then taken again at least 30 minutes before getting
on the boat. The biggest problem with this drug is either you
won't wake up in the morning or you can't keep your
eyes open and stay focused. That's a big problem if you
are the one being depended upon to get the crew back home safe.
I doubt the FAA allows pilots to fly after taking this medication.
This medication should be taken with caution by those individuals
with seizure disorders, acute angle glaucoma, and prostate enlargement.
Meclizine, also known as Bonine, Antivert and Dramamine in the
non-drowsy formula is known to be less drowsy than dimenhydrinate
(less, but not non-drowsy!). It has similar effectiveness when
compared to and taken the same way as the original Dramamine.
However, you stand a better chance of not coming home with a missing
crew member or running into a sea buoy when you take it. I have
used it on occasion and still do get a little tired, though.
Scopolamine is probably one of the most effective medications
used for the treatment of motion sickness. For our purpose, it
comes in a patch that is typically worn behind the ear at least
4 hours before getting on the boat. It can be worn for the next
three days if needed. If you start sweating heavily, be aware
the patch may fall off. Unfortunately, scopolamine also has quite
a few cautionary statements. Use with caution if you have a seizure
disorder, glaucoma, gastrointestinal problems, kidney and liver
dysfunction, a psychiatric disorder, problems urinating or are
elderly. Common side effects include: dry mouth, drowsiness, blurred
vision, dilated pupils, disorientation, dizziness, confusion and
hallucinations--to name a few.
Scopace I have recently become aware of a new formulation of
scopalamine, called Scopace. It comes in pill form and has a three-times-faster
onset of action than the patch. It will be a great alternative
for most people and likely more effective with fewer side effects
than the scopalamine patch. To start with, the dose can be titrated
or changed to minimize undesired effects of the medication while
retaining the same effectiveness as the patch. The cost is also
cheaper at a mere 35 cents a pill versus $5.25 per patch on average.
Because the onset of action is only one hour, Scopace can be
taken on an as needed basis or prophylactically and doesn't
have to be used before the boating trip begins unless you are
one of those unfortunate individuals guaranteed to have sea sickness.
Neither Scopace nor the scopolamine patch can be bought over-the-counter.
You must have a prescription. Scopace has the same side effect
profile as the patch although it is apparently less likely to
give you any problems.
I have been on many a boat where the boat's captain would
not head back to the hill when clearly most of the passengers
had nothing left to heave but bile. This can be a dangerous situation
due to eventual dehydration if left untreated.
For charter boats, I understand this is due to the loss of revenue
if they cut the trip short. The casual or private boater, however,
should really consider heading back home if any passenger has
intractable vomiting from seasickness. If you are one of those
fortunate individuals that have or will never experience seasickness,
try to remember the last morning after you tied one on with ol'
Jose Cuervo. Only then will you begin to understand.