Seasickness—also called mal de mer, if you wanna sound fancy—comes in many forms, ranging from visual disorientation and stomach cramps to green complexions and, of course, losing your lunch.
Our body equilibrium gets thrown off balance by the motions of the waves. Even the hardiest of us—like me, been around boats all my life—can experience a sudden bout of nausea under combinations of the right (or wrong) conditions.
Sometimes even the strongest stomachs and heartiest constitutions can’t handle all the rough seas and ocean swells. And if you have issues with queasiness or gaining control of your sea legs in general, there are ways to get this under control.
Remedies for seasickness vary differently for everyone and should be carried onboard as part of your boat’s emergency kit.
Seasickness medications and remedies run from natural remedies to doctor-prescribed ones for more severe situations.
But prevention is key here. To prevent seasickness, you need to be on top of maintaining hydration and replacing electrolytes. Keeping your blood sugar stable with regular snacks. These are all ways to prevent seasickness from occurring in the first place.
Still, motion sickness happens. Don’t let it ruin a fishing trip or end a pleasant time on the water by constantly heading to your boat’s toilet! If you get queasy easily, turn to these remedies before the onset of seasickness.
The 13 Best Seasickness Remedies to Cure You Quickly
If you prefer good old-fashioned, all-natural seasickness remedies, these are the most time-tested. For me, sometimes grabbing a small snack like a banana or crackers works. Other times, I need something stronger. Try each remedy for yourself first and see if it alleviates your symptoms.
Ginger roots provide an excellent natural remedy for seasickness. You can find ginger candies or ginger teas available and—to those who find the taste of ginger unappealing and bitter—in swallowable pills and capsules (check price on Amazon). Some swear by it, but it doesn’t work much for me.
2. Green Apples
Green apples are in general good for our digestive system, but in this case, an apple a day keeps the seasickness away. Even on cruise lines, they offer green apple plates as a part of room service menus.
3. Potassium and Electrolytes
Bananas provide a great source of potassium as do some vitamin mixes like Pedialyte. However, Gatorade and most sports drinks are not ideal for replenishing electrolytes; they’re missing Vitamin C! In place of a sports drink, try adding Emergen-C drink mix to water. You can stock up on Emergen-C packets on Amazon.
There’s something about crackers that do it for me every time. Maybe it’s simply having a bit of nourishment and salty something in my stomach to digest. But it’s one of my easy go-to methods. I always bring crackers onboard the boat, whether it’s saltines or sandwich crackers.
5. Horizon Gazing
Keeping a fixed gaze on the horizon can prevent seasickness quite well. Taking the helm works for me also! It sounds like a simple enough task, but it keeps my focus elsewhere. Navigating at night, however, can prove more difficult when you see nothing but flashing beacons and lights, so best to rely on something else.
6. Acupressure Wristbands
Acupressure wristbands contain a small bead placed on the inside of your wrist along a pressure point. These wristbands work best as preventative, but can quickly take effect three to five minutes after wearing.
Although you can find many manufacturers, Sea-Bands are a preferred brand name and easily found over-the-counter in local drugstores, but they are considered a natural remedy. They come in child’s wrist sizes and are also safe for expecting mothers! Check price on Amazon.
7. Nutrition Bars
I’ve recently learned of the Anchor Nutrition Bars (check price on Amazon) by some of my sailing buddies. They swear by these and claim they actually taste pretty good. Try them out for yourself!
In addition to all the natural remedies listed above, I would have a back-up plan in case they can’t curb your nausea. But try over the counter drugs and antihistamines before visiting your doctor and moving on to prescriptions. While we think of antihistamines as allergen blockers and medications, they block our allergies by helping to block signals to our brain. And these are the same signals that tell us we are nauseous.
Keep in mind, of course, that most over-the-counter medications also come in child’s doses for your little ones. But always check with your child’s doctor or pediatrician as they could have allergic reactions or unforeseen side effects like hyperactivity!
Dramamine is a very common medication and can be purchased on Amazon or at your local drugstore in emergencies. Some people claim that if you’re already feeling sick, Dramamine can make it worse! Which is why most prefer Bonine (#9) over Dramamine.
Effectiveness: 30 minutes to take effect.
Side Effects: It can also make you drowsy and lightheaded. And sorry, booze cruisers! Not recommended to consume with alcohol.
9. Meclizine (Bonine)
Bonine chewable tablets make a better alternative for passengers affected by the drowsiness that Dramamine brings. Being chewable also is great for kids who haven’t quite mastered swallowing pills.
Effectiveness: Takes 1 hour before travel. Lasts a full day, some passengers claim two!
Side Effects: Drowsiness (enhanced with alcohol consumption).
10. Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
Benadryl is another antihistamine to try that can work. With bad allergies, I use to take this before taking a boat ride into the pollun-ridden wind and it also helped take away any seasickness.
Effectiveness: Take 1 hour before travel.
Side Effects: Drowsiness, mainly.
Prescription Drug Remedies
Hopefully, your seasickness never reaches heightened level, but when all else fails, you may need a stronger drug dose from your physician. This is something you’d need to pay a visit to the office to talk about properly.
11. Transderm Scop (Scopolamine patch)
You’ve probably seen these patches before. They’re placed behind the ears (the inner ear is a crucial part of our equilibrium). Passengers can request the patches from doctors for longer overnight boating trips. I highly recommend them for cruise ship vacations as well! The only drawback is these are preventative and can’t be simply placed behind the ear at the moment you begin to feel nauseous.
Effectiveness: Lasts up to 3 days.
Side Effects: Passengers may have blurred vision, be a bit drowsy, some dizziness, and dry mouth… as a start. Worse side effects include anxiety, hallucinations and even psychosis. Yes, no joke!
Commonly an allergy relief medication, Promethazine is often prescribed alongside the drug ephedrine (see remedy #13) and taken together to combat nausea. But they each have their side effects.
Effectiveness: Give approximately 20 minutes to take effect. It should last anywhere from 4 – 6 hours, sometimes longer.
Side Effects: A list of side effects for this one I can’t even list here. But mainly other seasick passengers report sleepiness and drowsiness.
Ephedrine alone is used to treat low blood pressure and act as a stimulant for asthma patients or those with shortness of breath. But, again, used alongside Promethazine it works for severe seasickness cases.
Effectiveness: Like Promethazine, 15 – 20 minutes to take effect. Also lasts 4 – 6 hours.
Side Effects: Light drinking with a glass of wine or one beer is considered okay by some, but don’t overdo it!
A Note on Kids and Pets
Children commonly become nauseous over any type of motion sickness. When I was younger, I read during long car trips—often leading to nausea. I would have to take breaks and fixate my eyes on the road or distant cityscapes on the horizon. Contrarily, older generations are often less susceptible to seasickness.
Pets also may toss their kibble, especially if they are not used to boating at all. Make sure you understand how to keep your pet safe on the water and if you need, consult your veterinarian.
When You Absolutely Can’t Keep it Down
If you do feel the need to vomit, try to do so in a bucket. This seems obvious, but some boaters ask you head to the boat’s stern. That’s okay too, but a container is safer so you don’t accidentally fall overboard leaning your head out. You may be dizzy and your balance is already at a disadvantage.
And—I hate to tell you—but some passengers actually feel better afterward. We don’t like doing it, and you might want to fight it down, but listen to your body’s needs too. If it’s coming up, don’t resist; it could prolong the inevitable!
Consult Your Physician First!
I advise testing these motion-sickness remedies on land first to see how your body reacts. For over the counter and prescription drugs, I recommend taking a dose a good 12 hours before going out. If you don’t give it time to absorb into your bloodstream, you might not keep down medicine when you need it most.
Lastly, every drug has side effects and needs to be properly vetted by your personal physician—not by me! Please use drugs with caution and learn these side effects before taking them for yourself!
If you’re still new to water and boat activities, I suggest taking a long boat ride or two to test acclimate your stomach or test to see how it reacts to heavy seas. Like I mentioned earlier, some passengers can ride rough waves without a thought and then one day it hits them out of the blue. The important part is having the necessary items on board and knowing the preventative measures before seasickness kicks in.