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Sick of Being Seasick? Maybe There’s a Cure!

By badriance - Published June 23, 2009 - Viewed 6615 times

After reading dozens of emails on seasickness cures, it seems the toughest mariners aren’t the yo-ho-ho types who’ve sailed around Cape Horn in a force 10 gale. No, the toughest of the tough are the weekend boaters who routinely cast off the lines knowing that at any moment they’re liable to become deathly ill. That’s tough! Why do they persist? Renee DeMar from San Francisco was typical; despite being the most seasickness-prone person she knows, Renee has been sailing for the past 30 years simply because she likes being on the water. Jon Triplett from Texas says seasickness “has ruined more trips for me than I can recall, yet I love to go offshore.”


Whether they go deathly ill or slightly ill, one thing almost every reader who responded made clear: There is no single cure for seasickness that works miraculously for everybody. For every person who insisted, for example, that wristbands were the answer, another would preface his or her comments by saying they tried wristbands (or ginger, Bonine, Scopolamine, etc.) and they didn’t work. Others noted that some of the various medications have side effects that are worse than being seasick.


By a wide margin, most readers’ comments were directed at four cures: wristbands, ginger, Meclizine (Bonine, Dramamine) and Scopolamine. We’ve included comments supporting these cures as well as helpful advice and warnings about possible side effects. We’ve also included a few of the other cures, some of which were offbeat (understatement).


Acupressure Wristbands

The idea behind wristbands is similar to acupuncture: Block signals to the brain that cause seasickness. There are two types: wristbands that use pressure on the wrist to block signals and a high-tech version that does the same thing using electronic stimulation.


It took me a month to find the perfect solution: stupid little wrist bands ‘Queaze-Away’ costing around $5.00. Our local boating stores cannot keep them in stock. I purchase them three or four at a time. I strongly recommend them to anyone who gets seasick or carsick. They even take away the rocking motion that you experience after you return to shore.”        

-- Betsy G, Tuckerton, NJ



There have been several studies that have shown ginger can reduce incidences of vomiting and cold sweating. Like wristbands, ginger is a natural way to counter nausea and is readily available without a prescription.


Most of the recommendations for ginger came from readers who took ginger capsules. Ginger cookies, ginger root and ginger ale were also mentioned as being effective.


I was reminded of an episode of mythbusters from 2005 where various home remedies were tested by two seasickness-prone members of the cast. After 20 to 30 minutes on a spinning chair, both reported no symptoms whatsoever after taking a ginger pill. All other remedies tested had no positive effect and resulted in a pretty messy show. I myself swear by the ability of ginger to prevent seasickness and have remained seasick free since 1998.”  -- John Birmingham, New York, NY


Take three or four [ginger] capsules, 15 to 20 minutes before sailing and if you’re out all day, take it every three or four hours. It’s miraculous!

-- Ellen Bay, Catalina Island, CA


Meclizine (Bonine, Dramamine II)

Originally developed to treat vertigo, Meclizine (generic Antivert) is available as a stronger prescription drug in 50mg dosages for adults and 12.5mg for children. Several readers noted that Meclizine has a tendency to make you sleepy, especially the prescription version, which, as one reader said, “puts me to sleep and keeps me there.” Alcohol exacerbates the tendency to make people drowsy.


As a licensed captain who works on boats year round and also someone who gets seasick almost always, I’ve found a solution that works for me: I take one Bonine tablet every 12 hours. Since I began doing this, I have not gotten any symptoms of seasickness.”

-- Sean Sullivan, Marblehead, MA


After many different trials of drugs and gadgets, I have found that taking Meclizine (Bonine) at least 18 hours before motion begins is KEY! Thereafter, I take half of a 25mg Meclizine tablet every morning and evening until reaching shore.”

-- Herm Schiller, New Bern, NC


While Meclizine is available via prescription and OTC, I use only OTC. The prescription version is way to strong. It puts me to sleep, and keeps me there.”

-- Julie Phillips-Turner, Queenstown, MD


Scopolamine and Scopace

Among offshore sailors -- those who will be out in the ocean for more than a few hours -- Scopolamine is probably the most widely used of all the various medications. Scopolamine is a prescription drug sold under the name Transderm Scop and is administered via a patch placed behind the ear. It is advertised as being effective for three days and there are usually no serious side effects. However, when side effects do occur, they can be severe; several readers wrote to say that they had experienced hallucinations and/or dizziness. Note that the company that makes Scopolamine took it off the market in the mid-1990’s to remedy some quality control problems with dosage levels. The problems below were all experienced with the newer version of Scopolamine.


Scopace is a tablet version of Scopolamine. Unlike the patch, which is only available in a fixed 91.5mg) dosage, Scopace can be adjusted for each person’s weight and needs. According to a web site promoting Scopace, a study conducted for NASA found that the tablets are twice as effective as the patch in preventing motion sickness.


I have tried almost all seasickness brands, ginger and other medications with no luck, with the exception of a prescription patch that goes behind your ear. It worked for me before they took it off the market and I use it again now that they have it out again. It works well and I don’t seem to have any side effects, nor do I get sleepy.”

-- Renee DeMar, San Francisco, CA


Nothing worked until I found Scopace. The pill form allows the dosage to be customized for the individual and for the situation. I don’t experience any side effects (other than joy), and I don’t have to wear a sticky patch behind my ear either. Scopace is simply fantastic -- I can’t praise it highly enough.” 

-- Nicole Maraschky, Seattle, Washington


It was last year that I had hallucinations using the Scopolamine patch. I purchased them the fall before. The hallucinations were very real to me ... there were people in the cockpit with me and voices in the distance. The people seemed as real as can be! The voices were probably more dangerous because the seemed off in a distance and I wanted to go figure out where they were.” -- Sally Pinches, Montoursville, PA



I tried every remedy available in the U.S. and nothing worked. However, there is a product available only in the U.K., including Bermuda and the British Islands in the Caribbean. It is called Stugeron 15 made by McNeil Ltd. of England. It works for me and others I have recommended it to. My wife even uses it on long car or plane trips. Hope this helps other boaters.” -- Charlie Garrett, Oriental, NC


“There is a cure. We would not have a space program without it. It is Promethazine 50mg and 25mg Pseudoephedrine, taken once every 12 hours. In English, Phenergan and Actified. I have had it aboard my sailboat for over 25 years. It works even if you are vomiting as long as you an hold it down for five minutes. The relief is immediate. The reason the ephedrine or the pseudo variety is taken is to counter the drowsiness that sometimes occurs when you take Promethazine. Promethazine is a prescription drug in the US, but available over the counter in most countries. If you are prone to seasickness, you should take it ashore to make sure you are not the one in 1,000 people who experience side effects.”

-- Chris Warner, Seattle, WA


“The best food I have found for eating at sea is soda crackers. Just nibble on them as soon as you can and during the first few hours of the trip. I have used the formula on several of my friends and it has also worked for them including one that told me he has never been on a boat without getting seasick. Good Luck!”

-- Jim Wicklund, San Diego, CA


There are exercises that can be used for ‘vestibular habituation’. My daughter is a figure skater, and can spin around 20 or 30 revolutions, and come out to glide backward on one skate; I would be flat on the floor/deck. Her balance canals are habituated to the motion. I have used these Cawthorne Exercises’ on numerous patients, and they do work. Although not invented for seasickness, they work in most cases to make seasick prone people less susceptible.”

-- Joseph P. Gavron, Palos Park, IL


We and one other couple were on a chartered sailboat snorkel cruise to Molokini Crater. As we left, [a woman] started to get sick and the captain gave her an eye patch to wear. In about 10 minutes, she felt a lot better. The captain said that when you cover one of your eyes, your peripheral vision is restricted and that reduces the visual rolling you experience ... that is why pirates wore eye patches.”

-- Bob and Susan Remeika, Orange, CA


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