It's not easy being green
Ocean Navigator|January- February 2021
Dealing with the scourge of seasickness
ROBERT BERINGER

How can it be that something you love to do makes you sick?

The ocean is a fickle host, at times benevolent and mild, then obstreperous and cruel — often within moments of each other. One minute you’re in the galley, chewing the fat with the cook and then in a flash you’re bent over the taffrail feeding the fish — wishing you were dead.

During a race up the coast of Florida last year on a J-29, the boat owner was a seat-of-the pants type of “purist” sailor and didn’t carry charts. It was a robust day and we were shipping a lot of seawater, so I kept my cellphone with its chartplotting app in the saloon. I went below for a look at our position and before I knew it, I was … depositing the contents of my stomach before my stunned shipmates. Sorry guys.

Oh, dreaded mal de mer, my Achilles’ heel, why won’t you leave me be? It’s such an unfair and capricious affliction, crippling seasoned mariners while leaving random neophytes mostly unaffected. They say that seasickness has three fearful stages:

1. You are afraid you’re going to get sick.

2. You are afraid you’re going to die.

3. You are afraid you aren’t going to die.

A sizeable percentage suffers

Roughly one-third of a population is highly susceptible to motion sickness; there is no rhyme or reason as to who will suffer. My kids don’t even like sailing but are usually immune to the effects of seasickness. All they talk about is “when’s lunch?” Meanwhile, I’m trying to hold down breakfast. According to WebMD, people likely to suffer include:

• Women who are menstruating, pregnant or on hormone therapy.

• People who suffer migraines.

• Children younger than 12.

• People who take antibiotics, narcotics, asthma medications or antidepressants.

But if none of those apply to you, you’re not off the hook — you can still get sick out there.

Scopolamine patches: strong medicine

The scopolamine transdermal patch is a prescription medicine and very effective in the prevention of nausea associated with seasickness and postoperative nausea. By 2017, worldwide sales of the drug surpassed $370 millionand have grown since.

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