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Coping with Seasickness

Seasickness is “a result of a conflict in the inner ear, where the human balance mechanism resides, and is caused by a vessel’s erratic motion on the water…  The brain responds with a cascade of stress-related hormones that can ultimately lead to nausea, vomiting, and vertigo.” Strong smells such as petrol fumes, diesel fumes and fish can make this condition worse. If you are on a cruise, it might take you two to three days to get over sea sickness. That will not help if you are just out in a small rocking dive boat for a few hours.

Dehydration and an empty stomach are likely to contribute to sea sickness. It is not just riding in boats that cause us to feel ill, motion underwater can as well. Surface wave action or being underwater and pushed to and fro in a strong surge where the seaweed is also rhythmically swept back and forth, can cause nausea in a diver. To reduce the possibility of an upset stomach, avoid consuming chocolate, milk, coffee or acidic, greasy or spicy foods as they can lead to vomiting. Too much food before a dive can be uncomfortable as it may give you wind, make you queasy and could lead to vomiting. Eat a smallish and fairly bland breakfast. Cereal, toast, eggs, or fruit should help. Take nibbles with you such as muesli bars, nuts or fruit as you can rely on these for extra energy. Sips of water and small snacks at regular intervals during the day is the best practice.

Drinking thin non-spicy soup will add fluid and food to your dive day. Bananas are nutritious and high in starch so they help neutralize excess stomach acid which contributes to sea sickness. If you prefer apples to bananas, the pectin in green apples also helps to neutralize stomach acid. Carrots are another food that will help keep your stomach settled. If you are prone to seasickness or motion sickness, ginger tea, ginger nut biscuits, crystalised ginger or peppermints might help. If not, ask your doctor.

If you do feel you are about to vomit underwater, there is a way you can do that. Press the regulator purge button and use the same technique you were taught to breathe from a free-flowing regulator. The increased air flow will blow your vomit out of your mouth and regulator, while forming an air pocket that you can gag into. That air pocket will prevent you involuntarily sucking in water and blocking your airway. Don’t try vomiting through the regulator. While most of the vomit may be bile, which is mostly fluid, chunks might cause blockages in the regulator exhaust ports and fill the second stage cavity; this will cause you breathing difficulties until you clear it.

As soon as you can, slowly ascend to the surface, inflate your BCD, turn onto your back and face away from the wind. Now you are safe to vomit as your Rescue trained dive buddy, tows you back to the boat or shore. The fish will happily clean up your mess.

So remember, before you go diving, plan your food and water intake, particularly if you are prone to seasickness or motion sickness. Stay away from alcohol before and during the dives. Make every dive a safe (and enjoyable) dive. For more advice, call us on 04 233-8238.