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Best sea sickness tablets

man and woman on a boat
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If you feel unwell when travelling by boat, you may be experiencing sea sickness. This form of travel sickness is similar to feeling unwell in a car, though sea travel is often more turbulent than on roads. Some people may find sea sickness tablets or bands can ease the symptoms when they travel by boat.

What is sea sickness?

Sea sickness often happens when you travel by boat, cruise ships or on other watercrafts. Motion sickness is caused by mixed messages to your brain, where your inner ear sends different signals to what your eyes see.

When you’re on a vessel which is moving up and down over water, you may experience feelings of nausea, sickness and vertigo. On larger cruise ships, the feeling of movement without your eyes seeing it may also make you feel unwell.

The symptoms of seasickness differ from person to person, but can include:

  • Pale skin
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Increased saliva production
  • Headache
  • Nausea

Medication for sea sickness

If you’re looking for relief when you travel by boat, sea sickness tablets may be recommended by your pharmacist. Over-the-counter medicines such as promethazine teoclate or cinnarizine are often suggested for those who feel nauseous when they travel.

Hyoscine is one of the common medicines for motion sickness and works by blocking the signals sent to your brain during motion that may cause confusion. It can also reduces saliva build up in the mouth (a symptom of nausea).

Antihistamines are also sometimes used to treat symptoms of seasickness. These are thought to work by blocking H1 receptors in the area of the brain responsible for nausea. Some sea sickness pills make people feel drowsy and interfere with other medications, so it’s important to talk to a helathcare professional before taking them. It's also essential to get medical advice if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.

Are there any other sea sickness remedies I could try?

Sea sickness bands are another option, which are a natural and drug-free choice. The bands have a small plastic stud which applies acupressure to the on the nei kuan P6 point between the two central tendons near your wrist. Most anti-sickness bands are suitable for pregnant women and children, so talk to a pharmacist to see if this option is best for you or your family.

Travel sickness patches are another available option, which can be prescribed by a GP. These patches are applied behind the ear and slowly release medication into your body to correct some of the chemical imbalances caused by motion sickness.

How to ease sea sickness symptoms

Although there isn’t a seasickness cure, there are a few ways to minimise the symptoms of sea sickness.

These include:

  • Sea sickness tablets or bands – sea sickness tablets block the signal to the brain that causes nausea. They should be taken 1-2 hours before travel for optimum effect. 
  • Ginger tea or tablets – ginger is known to soothe the stomach and help reduce bloating. It can be sipped as a fizzy drink or swallowed in tablet form, which some may find helpful in reducing motion sickness.
  • Keeping motion to a minimum by sitting in the centre of the boat – the side of the boat is where the most amount of swaying happens, so try to avoid being on the edge.
  • Closing your eyes and taking deep breaths – deep breaths can assist in feelings of calm, and breathing in fresh, cold air can help settle the dizziness often associated with seasickness.
  • Drinking water – sipping small amounts of water throughout the journey can help settle your stomach and prevent dehydration which may lead to unwanted headaches.

Why do people get seasick?

Seasickness occurs when repeated movements experienced on water send unusual signals to the balance sensors in your brain. Your sense of balance is operated by the vestibular system, a collection of nerves and fluids within your inner ear.

Your vestibular system and your eyes work together to send signals to your brain to let it know you’re in motion. Feelings of seasickness occur when your brain and inner ear are not in alignment, and your brain struggles to store this information correctly.

Who gets seasick?

It is not fully understood why some people experience symptoms of seasickness when others do not, although it may be connected to the different ways in which an individual’s vestibular system functions. Women, children and those who experience migraines are more likely to feel seasick than others. Certain medications can also contribute to increased motion sickness.

Those with more experience on boats may find themselves less likely to become seasick, although this is not always the case.

How do you prevent sea sickness?

We have listed some ways to help ease the symptoms of seasickness, but how can you prevent seasickness in the first place?

Prevent sea sickness by: 

  • Not drinking alcohol or eating a large meal before your boat journey - whilst it is important to never skip a meal, be sure to avoid putting anything in your stomach that might lead to discomfort during turbulent weather.
  • If possible, stand by the helmsman (boat driver) - drivers are less likely to experience motion sickness as they are more in tune with the movements around them. Sitting near whoever is steering the boat can prevent the symptoms of seasickness before they begin.
  • Sleep - keeping your eyes closed for the duration of the journey is one of the best ways to reduce confusion between your brain signals. Listening to an audiobook with your eyes closed can also positively distract your brain.

How long does sea sickness last?

Symptoms of sea sickness usually go away soon after journey is over, though sometimes they can last a few hours after travelling. By following the instructions on your pharmacy recommend anti-sickness remedy, you can help avoid sea-sickness for the duration of your trip.

Can you get sea sick on a cruise ship?

Sea sickness can vary from person to person, and also depends on the weather conditions or sea you are travelling across. If you already know you experience travel sickness, it might be a good idea to prepare for your cruise.

Certain regions are known for choppy waters, or during certain times of the year. i.e. Mediterranean areas in winter months or the Caribbean during hurricane season (June-November). You could also book a cabin in the middle of the ship to avoid too much motion, or pack sea sickness bands ahead of your trip.