MAL DE MER
(SEASICKNESS)

Diana Gabaldon, in her novel "Voyager", writes "Lots o' green hands feel a bit queerlike the first day or two. But usually they comes around soon enough..." There are two bad things about seasickness, first, you feel so bad you wish you would die; second, you realize you won't. My personal experience is to feel a bit "queerlike" for the first few hours of my voyage, especially if the vessel is "coasting". This is because there is often a bit of a swell while traveling parallel to the coast. At the end of a voyage expect about 12 hours, more or less, of feeling like you are still at sea. This is apparently due to the continued stimulation by the fluid in the inner ear during prolonged periods at sea. This is quite normal.

While not related to seasickness, another phenomenon you may experience is "floaters", little black spots floating across your visual field. I make no attempt to explain why this is so, however, if you have had cataract or intra ocular surgery, you will be more apt to experience floaters. These will disappear, however, it may take a few weeks.

According to Ernest S Campbell, MD, FACS, motion sickness is a disturbance in the vestibular (balance system of the inner ear) system as it relates to the visual and proprioception (position sense in space) systems of the brain. Some people only get sick when their eyes are focused on close work. Some people associate diesel fumes with being sick, most likely a psychological stimulus.

The best medications have been found to be "Meclizine", "Bonine", Dramamine and Trans-derm Scop.

There are those who will tell you that sea sickness is really a state of the mind - when you and I "know" that isn't true! Actually, the Israeli navy has done studies that show that suggestion plays an important part in producing sea sickness. They also have shown in very good studies that the best drug for mal de mer is scopolamine, recently placed back on the market by the FDA in transdermal form. Scopolamine has many side effects, is difficult to regulate with each individual and may be dangerous to the diver with glaucoma or prostate trouble.

They found that the next best drug was cinnarizine (Sturgeron in the U.K.), less effective, but with many fewer side-effects. Sturgeron is not available in the U.S.

WRIST BANDS?

Relief Band Device
The ReliefBand® NST(TM) device is indicated for use in the treatment of nausea
and vomiting due to chemotherapy, motion sickness and pregnancy. The Food and Drug Administration has approved its electronic ReliefBand for postoperative nausea.

It is the first such commercially available device to receive FDA clearance, the Carlsbad, California-based company said in a news release.

According to the manufacturer, the ReliefBand uses electronic signals to stimulate nerves in the wrist. It is believed that those signals stimulate natural nerve impulses in the body, causing them to interfere with nausea messages en route to the stomach, the company explained.

Ginger

About 1 gram of powdered ginger has been shown effective against motion sickness in double-blind studies. In Germany, up to 4 grams per day is recommended.

Start dosing about 12 hours before boarding your ship The beauty of the ginger is it's easy to obtain and has no side effects. You might try gingersnap cookies instead. Ginger root works just as well as the tablets or powder. Ginger ale can also be used. Japanese food marts sell pickled ginger slices that can be used for the same purpose. Ginger root is often available in your local supermarket (at least in Southern California).

Ginger: Non-toxic Anti-Emetic

Botanical Name: Zingiber officinale

Plant Part Used: The rhizome

Active Constituents: The dried rhizome contains approximately 1 to 4% volatile oils.

Actions on the Digestive System: Classifiedas an aromatic bitter, ginger stimulates digestion. It is also noted for improving gastrointestinal motility.

1. Ginger also improves the production and secretion of bile from the liver and gallbladder

2. Ginger also qualifies as a carminativeherb. Animal studies in Saudi Arabia show that ginger protects the stomach from the damaging effect of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen is an example) and alcohol

3. Ginger is a noted anti-emetic. While most research has suggested that this action is centered in the GI tract in humans, recent animal studies suggest that there may be some action on the central nervous system also.

4. Health Care Applications Motion Sickness: Ginger has been widely studied as a treatment for motion sickness. A 1982 study found that ginger was superior to dimenhydrinate for reducing motion sickness (caused by rotating a chair). The dose of ginger was 940 mg and it was consumed 20 to 25 minutes before the test.

5. A handful of studies since have both agreed and disagreed with these results. One study tested ginger against seasickness in eighty Danish naval cadets unaccustomed to sailing in heavy seas. One gram of ginger reduced vomiting and cold sweating. Fewer symptoms of nausea and vertigo were also reported.

6. A study completed at Louisiana State University, with a grant from NASA, is more skeptical. Because motion sickness is common in astronauts, the researchers compared the anti-motion sickness activity of ginger and scopolamine (commonly used as a topical patch to treat motion sickness). Using the rotating chair test, they found that scopolomine was effective in reducing motion sickness while one gram of either fresh or dried ginger was not.

7. However, during their discussion of the study, the authors note that the ginger group did have a noticeable reduction in the incidence of vomiting and sweating but not nausea and vertigo.

Stomach bolus?

Oatmeal, bagels, crusty bread, or any food that forms a bolus in the stomach can be helpful.

When on deck keep your eyes on the horizon, stay on deck and keep yourself well hydrated with non-alcoholic beverages. Staying holed up in your cabin is not apt to improve the situation. Antacid tablets or lemon drops may be partially effective. Cannabis is also reported to effective.While you make enjoy a little now and again, all ships have a zero level tolerance for any kind of illegal drugs, so leave your stash at home.

The bottom line is to consult you doctor or pharmacist before your voyage if you think you may become seasick. It is possible that the ship may have medication for seasickness, however, since there will be no doctor aboard you won't be getting prescription medication.

R. F. Ahern
Los Angeles, CA.
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