Even experienced seafarers can still be affected by seasickness. In addition to patience, various measures can alleviate or prevent the symptoms of seasickness.


What is seasickness?

The so-called seasickness is actually not an illness in the narrower sense, but rather a healthy body reaction to an unusual movement that the body experiences, for example when traveling on a ship. See ablogtophone for BHD which stands for Birt-Hogg-Dube Syndrome.

Conceptually, however, seasickness is a form of motion sickness. People react differently to movements that can lead to seasickness: While a large part of the population shows an ‘average’ susceptibility to developing seasickness, there are minorities who develop seasickness very quickly or very rarely.

Babies and people older than 50 years usually react with seasickness quite rarely. Science assumes that not only humans, but also various animals can develop symptoms of seasickness.


One of the causes of seasickness is, for example, the fact that the brain receives contradicting information from the body: If, for example, the waves on a ship cannot be observed with the eyes, the brain cannot interpret the movement signals from the balance organ.

Another contributing factor to seasickness is that, despite registered movements, no activity signal from the muscles reaches the brain. The contradictory messages are ultimately interpreted as a dangerous situation and the symptoms of seasickness appear due to the release of stress hormones.

Symptoms of seasickness can not only be caused by real situations, but also by appropriately designed cinema performances or computer games. One reason infants tend not to develop seasickness is that their balance organs are not fully developed.

Symptoms, Ailments and Signs

There are many different symptoms associated with seasickness, which can vary in individual cases. Typical signs include dizziness and nausea, which can lead to vomiting. As a result, electrolyte imbalance and dehydration are possible. In most cases, however, these symptoms of seasickness are not life-threatening.

Sometimes the sight or smell of food makes the nausea worse. There may also be heartburn or a lack of appetite. Some people who suffer from seasickness have intestinal problems. Digestive activity often decreases, which can lead to constipation.

Those affected may feel exhausted and tired when they get seasick. Drowsiness can progress to lethargy. Pallor and headaches are also common symptoms of seasickness. Serious circulatory problems, on the other hand, rarely occur. People who suffer from seasickness often sweat. You may also shiver or tremble. The various complaints sometimes lead to motor insecurity, temporary gait disorders or balance disorders.

Psychological symptoms are common with seasickness. They include depression, emotional numbness, trouble concentrating, and problems with motivation. A depressive mood or general listlessness are also possible. Some of those affected also have the impression that they perceive their surroundings as being dampened by cotton wool or fog.

Diagnosis & History

It is often the case that the symptoms of seasickness decrease after being exposed to unfamiliar movements for a few days. Now the probability of showing renewed symptoms of seasickness during further exposure also decreases.

Seafarers may suddenly develop symptoms of seasickness after years without seasickness. Other seafarers show symptoms again on every voyage. Seasickness is diagnosed on the basis of the typical symptoms of nausea, vomiting or dizziness that occur while an affected person is in a movement situation that corresponds to a situation on a ship in swell.


Seasickness results from the fact that the eyes and the vestibular system in the inner ear absorb conflicting sensory perceptions that the brain has to process. The brain reacts to this form of stress with messenger substances such as histamine and serotonin. The histamine stimulates the vomiting center in the brain, which ultimately triggers the symptoms of seasickness. The side effects usually subside on their own after a few days without any complications occurring.

In some cases, however, the typical symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, nausea and diarrhea persist throughout the voyage. Persons who show severe and long-lasting symptoms may then have to break off a sea voyage prematurely. Extremely severe nausea and severe diarrhea that lasts for days can also lead to significant weight loss and circulatory problems.

Those affected then feel weak for days even after the symptoms have subsided. For patients who suffer from cardiovascular disease or are already physically weak for other reasons, the excessive loss of fluid from constant vomiting or diarrhea can even be life-threatening. It is imperative that these victims receive medical attention.

In patients suffering from migraines, seasickness can also trigger an acute attack. It must be expected that the migraine attack will then be significantly more severe than under normal conditions.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you get seasick, you don’t always have to see a doctor. A visit to the doctor is usually only necessary if the person concerned is suffering from very severe and serious symptoms. Most of those affected experience very loud and heavy snoring, so that the quality of life of the partner is also negatively affected. A doctor should be consulted if the patient snores loudly and suffers from heart problems or concentration problems. Erectile dysfunction or a lack of sexual desire in general can also clearly indicate the disease and should also be examined and treated by a doctor.

A doctor should also be consulted if the patient suffers from severe heartburn or dizziness. In the case of seasickness, the family doctor can be consulted. However, further treatment depends heavily on the exact type and severity of the symptoms, so that this is usually carried out by another specialist.

Treatment & Therapy

There are different approaches to treating seasickness. First of all, there are some behavioral measures that can reduce seasickness: For example, it is initially recommended to go above deck on a ship voyage and not to stay inside. To combat the symptoms of seasickness, one should ideally adapt to the movements of the ship on deck. It is good to fixate on a certain point on the horizon.

Using relaxation techniques can also help with seasickness. If the symptoms of seasickness are already severe, it may be helpful to lie flat on a part of the ship where relatively little ship movement is felt.

Studies have shown that placebos (medicines that do not contain any active ingredients but the user assumes they do) have good success with seasickness. This mechanism of action is probably due, among other things, to the fact that the person concerned is relieved of the fear of continuing to suffer from seasickness. This decrease in anxiety then has a positive effect on the symptoms of seasickness.

Finally, there are medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) to treat severe seasickness. If an affected person is already vomiting, a suppository form can be the appropriate one. Possible side effects of such medications are tiredness or a decrease in the ability to react.


There are also possible behavioral measures and (in the case of known susceptibility) medication (e.g. in the form of depot plasters) to prevent seasickness. On the behavioral level, for example, it is advisable to primarily eat easily digestible foods on the evening before a cruise. Coffee, alcohol and nicotine should also only be consumed to a limited extent shortly before and during a cruise.


Since real seasickness cannot be cured in most cases, no real follow-up care can take place. Once the patient is back on land, the symptoms usually subside within a short time. At the very beginning, if there are still some problems, you should only eat light food or, even better, only drink herbal tea.

This is the fastest way to guarantee recovery. Especially when there is gastric emptying on board due to the rocking movement of the ship, the seasick person has to drink a lot in order to provide the body with important lost salts and sufficient liquid.

If possible, ship trips should be avoided in the future. As a rule, however, river cruises are much calmer, which is why seasickness cannot even arise here. With short trips you can find out how tolerable such a river cruise is.

If a trip on the open sea is planned again, waters or times of the year should be chosen in which strong turbulence cannot occur. In any case, it is very helpful to get suitable preventive medication against seasickness from the pharmacy right before the start of the trip.

You can do that yourself

Seasickness is often easily accessible to self-help in everyday life. There are a few ways to prevent the appearance or at least to significantly reduce its severity. These are briefly presented below.

Seasickness is closely linked to our vestibular system and our senses. Just looking at a surging sea can trigger them. Therefore, patients with the appropriate disposition can move into an inside cabin on a large ship, which can eliminate this cause. In stormy seas, this can then be preferred.

An empty stomach is often unfavorable in terms of seasickness. It is best for patients suffering from this condition to always have something in their stomach that is easy to digest. It is also important to ensure that you drink enough, especially if you cannot avoid vomiting. Alcohol and nicotine can increase seasickness and should be reduced significantly or not consumed at all.

There are a number of naturopathic treatments that can be effective for seasickness. A visit to acupuncture is often worthwhile. Globules or other homeopathic remedies for seasickness can be taken on the ship itself. These are also good for children. Relaxation techniques or yoga can also be very efficient helpers with seasickness.