Dealing with Seasickness

heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
edited June 2012 in General Discussion
I'm working out in Kailua Beach this month (what fun!) and am finding the chop incredibly challenging. Gusty winds in the islands are creating really tall waves and one is tossed from side to side. The seasickness wears me out and I end up swimming a lot less than I'm used to, yardage-wise. I've started using Bonine, but to no avail. Tips/advice?


  • Powdered ginger can help calm sea-sickness. I get powdered ginger caplets at the store and start taking three with meals before a big event. I have had varying results. It is worth trying though. I have also used scopolamine patches on relays (but not during training or solo events)
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    +1 on powdered ginger caplets (though I haven't tried the control condition). I have scop patches for the upcoming season of observations, but I think they're considered inadvisable for swimmers.
  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
    I used a patch for the first time for my Catalina swim (I know - never try something you haven't first tried in practice). I was worried about the boat ride to Catalina. It worked great. I've never felt so good while below deck, and fell asleep on the way over.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    What sort of patch is it? The swells here are killin' me. Yesterday's 6km felt like an episode of Horatio Hornblower. (I know, I know, trouble in paradise.)
  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
    It is a prescription you have to get from your doctor. Good for up to 3 days. Not something you'd use all the time for training.

    I had one swimmer tell me that they take dramamine and Nodoz together. They get motion sickness very easily. I'm not sure this is something I would try but if you need dramamine to combat motion sickness and you don't want to get lethargic/sleepy from it, I guess it is something to consider.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    This is all very good advice. Thanks, folks.
  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    I have found that earplugs seem to help a bit with equilibrium. Personally I have never had trouble being "drowsy" while swimming (!), but dramamine never worked for me at all for the nausea anyway. Acupuncture can be effective- there is a leave-in tiny needle that goes on your ear which actually was effective once for me (in combination with meds)... Scop patch is good- works for travel for me but not nec for truly wide open/no visible skyline or horizon water (it also does not stay on very well in salt water, but probably could be taped on to stay). Clearly I could go on, having fed fish around the world, but I will just leave it at that!
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    If getting motion sick were an Olympic event, I'd be a gold medalist. It's so bad that when I even smell jet exhaust, I get sick. (Hello, Dr. Pavlov...) For me, ginger is the only thing that works and it works well. I take several capsules right before bed the night before travel/race, several when I get up and several about 45 minutes before the race start. If the race is going to be > 4 hours, I take several at 4-ish hours.

    Scopolamine patches can have rough side effects - I get sleepy and the world's worst dry mouth - although they do work.

    Research seems to indicate that sedating medicines (dramamine, scopolamine, etc) are actually the wrong way to go and that things like amphetamines might work better. I know that my friend, Bob Voy, who was, at one time, chief medical officer for the US Olympic Committee, swears that sedating medicines are poor seconds to meds that rev you up.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    edited June 2012
    A sure cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree.... Spike Milligan

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    Love Spike Milligan
    I told you I was ill....
  • IronMikeIronMike inch.houseboat.primeCharter Member
    When I used to fly for a living, there were two remedies that us flyers used. If your problem was the stomach, then ginger pills (or real ginger soda like you can get at Trader Joe's or Whole Paycheck). If the problem was middle-ear, then aspirin.

    There was a third remedy, that a pregnant (first trimester) woman swore by: pressure bracelet, that odd hokey-looking thing with two small metal balls on the ends, you wear on your wrist and the balls hit your inner wrist. She was motion-sick (actually, morning sick) bad and when she wore the bracelet it went away immediately.

    Of course, wearing a bracelet probably isn't an option for marathon swimmers. ;)

    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here:

  • ssthomasssthomas Charter Member

    Research seems to indicate that sedating medicines (dramamine, scopolamine, etc) are actually the wrong way to go and that things like amphetamines might work better. I know that my friend, Bob Voy, who was, at one time, chief medical officer for the US Olympic Committee, swears that sedating medicines are poor seconds to meds that rev you up.


    @Leonard_Jansen- I've been trying to find solutions for my mom's severe sea sickness issues. She desperately wants to be on my boat when I swim the English Channel in a month, but I'm not sure I can deal with the guilt of her barfing for hours on end. I shared with her some of the info from this discussion and she wanted me to find out what exactly you mean by amphetamines- what could she legally take that might work better than dramamine, which has no impact?
  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member
    ssthomas said:

    @Leonard_Jansen- I've been trying to find solutions for my mom's severe sea sickness issues. She desperately wants to be on my boat when I swim the English Channel in a month, but I'm not sure I can deal with the guilt of her barfing for hours on end. I shared with her some of the info from this discussion and she wanted me to find out what exactly you mean by amphetamines- what could she legally take that might work better than dramamine, which has no impact?

    Well... I wasn't trying to promote amphetamine usage. So, here is the usual disclaimer: I am not a doctor; I don't even play one on TV. Seek a physician's guidance and anyone who listens to me should have their head examined. Do not remove tag under penalty of law.

    That said...

    Something like (generic & extended release) Adderall or dexedrine are stimulants of the sort I am talking about. These can be used legally in the US for ADHD and narcolepsy, although some physicians also prescribe them for treatment-resistant depression. Keep in mind that there are many places where these are class I drugs, meaning that they often can't be brought into a country even if you have a 'script here in the U.S. Wikipedia is a good place to read about this.

    Note that Ginger (but not MaryAnne - sorry, couldn't resist) and scopolamine also work for me. It sounds like your mom & I are in the same situation and I'd be far more inclined to go that route than with stimulants given potential side-effects. (This is experience speaking on that topic.) Either that, or I'd get a few serious tranquilizers and if she gets too sick, have her take one and then sleep the rest of the time - you usually don't get seasick when asleep.

    I share her pain. Good luck.


    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • jendutjendut Charter Member
    If the problem was middle-ear, then aspirin.

    AHA! Now THAT makes sense because exedrin migraine actually is my best defense thus far- mine is head-injury induced motion sickness. By the way, bracelet did nothing for me- threw up every day of 2 pregnancies. Skinniest I have ever been!
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member
    edited August 2012
    Like I wrote in another post:

    The very experienced sailing skipper we frequently use here in the Netherlands tells us not to eat apples or drink apple juice.
    They increase the chance of seasickness/motionsickness.
    Ginger decreases it. Ginger can be consumed in all kind of styles like cookies, tea, ginger-ale...
    He´s a professional sailing skipper and sails across the Atlantic almost every winter so he knows what he´s talking about. - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited August 2012
    It might be a good idea to take ginger a couple days before you swim.

    Ginger Reduces Chemotherapy Nausea, Study

    Taking ginger three days before chemo -- in addition to regular anti-nausea drugs -- reduced nausea by 40% over people taking the anti-nausea drugs alone.
  • SharkoSharko Sonoma County, CACharter Member
    I don't get sea sick..but many of my fellow swimmers at the South End, including me, drink warm ginger tea before swims...probably helps with the sea sickness and warms one up for a cold water swim....I used the 5 hr energy drink, for the first time, on a recent support role as feeder kayaker etc, on a Catalina swim for a friend and it seemed to work well at keeping me alert for a number of hours and no real side affects...the product has some caffeine in it but apparently there are herbal products that are also stimulative...and since I don't get sick I am not sure that this is a possibility...but since there were no real side affects it might help???

    "I never met a shark I didn't like"

  • mpfmarkmpfmark Teesside England Charter Member
    Im particularly interested in this thread...I recently travelled to the start of a marathon swim on the pilot boat and found myself (togther with most of my crew all of whom were very experienced) projectile vomitting to the point of total exhaustion, the swim did not even fact two days later we are still suffering with the after effects on our stomach muscles.
    Part of the problem may well have been due to it being dark and unable to focus on the horizon. Three of us applied the scopoderm patches at least two hours before the journey and I had been taking other medication each night in the week leading up to the event.
    The other bad thing is I DONT LIKE GINGER at all
    any further thoughts are welcome
    next time I might actually get into the water
  • NiekNiek Heiloo, NetherlandsCharter Member
    edited August 2012
    I do not get seasick but still love my ginger cookies. :-)

    @mpfmark The other bad thing is I DONT LIKE GINGER at all

    You might try ginger pills. Wash them away with gingerale whatever you like. ;-)
    ginger pills - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!

  • I see that less-drowsy dramamine (meclazine) had not been mentioned yet. I have used this on several occasions (like yesterday) and it seems to have a decent success rate for suppressing motion-sickness.
    It is an antihistamine so there is the bonus side-effect of supressing reaction to jellyfish stings. (also like yesterday). I still have a reaction but not as bad.
  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited August 2012
    For what it's worth, Diana Nyad claims we can't be allergic to jellyfish.

    "I've learned that we human beings can't be allergic to jellyfish because they are creatures of genetic background that is 600 million years old and our immune systems didn't develop until much more recently."

    The Cuba Swim: A Life Story
  • One of our support crew used Ginger and other herbal remedies before our Triple English Channel Attempt in 2011 and was still horribly sick for 90% of the journey! That saying our support boat sways a lot because

    A little off-topic... but I agree with JenA. 3 years ago I was researching what I had been told may have been an allergic reaction to Blue Bottle Jelly Fish - Rottnest Channel Individual Swim (non-race day) 2009 (difficulty breathing, diarrhea, swollen face and body). A researcher at James Cook University, Australia (The University conducts nationally significant and internationally recognised research in areas such as marine sciences, biodiversity, tropical ecology etc...) informed me that you cannot be allergic to jelly fish stings. Yes, you can have terrible reactions from some, be killed by others but it is not from an "allergy" as such.
  • My comments was cut out: "That saying, our support boat sways a lot because it is a fishing trawler and not designed to travel at the slow speed which swimmers swim :)"
  • @chloemccardeldotcom @mpfmark Some of the EC boats are more stable than others. Pace Arrow is extremely stable because it's so low & (was a fishing boat afaik but not the traditional boat design of the CSA boats).

    @mpfmark, I often remark that I spent 12 hours less than 500 metres from your pilot boat while crewing a crossing. Pace Arrow was perfectly stable in less than Force Three winds while the one you were on last week was rolling all over the place in the same conditions. It's high-sided and heavy steel and catches the wind easily.

    But a few of you know I am fixated on boat stability, even from the swimmer's point of view, and why I am fixated.

    As far as I've read, adrenaline epipens, often carried by people with bee-sting or nut allergies, are useless for jellyfish stings. Though I think @JenA and @chloemaccardeldotcom may have been on opposite sides of a sarcasm divide there! :D
  • KarenTKarenT Charter Member
    I'm afraid I have nothing positive to contribute re: the sea sickness dilemma. All I can offer is my enduring memory of my one and only channel relay swim...
  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    First off, I realize I'm responding to an old post--I've been thinking I should deal w/ this seasickness issue this year b/c I have some ambition to extend my distance. And I'd kind of like it not to be an issue if I'm doing something, say 8-10 miles long, thanks!

    I got seasick in two of my longest swims (5+ miles) out of three. Even once in a mile swim, I remembered feeling queasy but didn't realize it was seasickness-- I thought it was the smell of barbecue coming from shore when I was trying to swim hard--when I got out of the water (same barbecue smell), my stomach calmed down immediately.

    Most recent case--I was feeding fish every few minutes, but found it more annoyance than anything else (like a sneezing fit). A race committee member came by and asked if I was okay. "I'll be okay," I told him. "But are you okay NOW?" he pressed. (Sigh! Whatever you want to hear to let me keep swimming!) So my last couple miles I was alternating between losing whatever nutrition I tried to take in--and swimming. I'd like for that not to happen in the future b/c it kinda cuts into such speed as I manage to achieve.

    Ginger: I have ginger EVERY night in a stir fry. If I go out for any Asian food, it's gotta have ginger. I use water in o.w. swims that has a few drops of ginger per 16-20 oz. I love the taste of the stuff! And I'd rather NOT use anything that makes me sluggish (I need whatever speed I can get!).

    During one of my 5 mile swims, I didn't get seasick (did have sea lice but that's for another thread). During that swim, my only fluid was water tinged with ginger plus ginger snaps for solid food. Think I'll go back to that. (Won't help w/ the sea lice but I think I figured something out for that.)

    In that swim last year despite heaving every few minutes, I still beat my previous (non-seasick) time by almost 40 minutes. And my fastest swim at the same distance was also done while seasick. Maybe I should skip trying to remedy the heaving. ;)
  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    dpm50 said:

    First off, I realize I'm responding to an old post

    Incidentally, we highly encourage folks to bump old discussions. Over 1,000 now since the Forum's inception three years ago... many of which newer members may never have seen.

    Thanks, @dpm50 !
  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USMember

    I swam the first 3+ miles of the Ocean City, Maryland 9 miler last Saturday then exited because of sea sickness. I got out unassisted, but barely. I should have bailed earlier.

    I read through this thread, but was hoping to hear more about how well different medications work, and what side effects youve had.

    I like ginger, and had been eating/ drinking it regularly for weeks before the swim and that morning. So I know ginger doesn't work for me when the sea is rolling with chop. (It wasn't even that bad. It was fun, at first. )

    Meclazine (Dramamine non-drowsy) was recommended by an ENT doctor and former swimmer. Anyone have experience with it?

    Apparrently migraines and motion sickness often go together. (Who knew?) I've gotten migraines since I was a little kid, though thankfully not often the last few years. And I did have a low grade migraine for 2 days after the OC swim. The prescription drug Rizatriptan is supposed to help motion sickness in migraine sufferers. Anyone have experience with it?

    I hate that I DNF, for a reason I could have managed ahead of time.

    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • jendutjendut Charter Member

    Through the years I have determined through process of elimination that my own profound seasickness/motion sensitivity is often migraine-related- I do take exedrin migraine before and during swims - night time light on a paddler/escort boat can set me off and day time any visual stim is problematic. I think the lightbulb went on for me years back when somewhere, on some forum, someone described fighter pilot training and the nausea link with brain NOT stomach... ginger/dramamine, etc do nothing for me whatsoever.

  • Leonard_JansenLeonard_Jansen Charter Member

    @JSwim - One quick thought: If you are going to use a migraine drug like sumatriptan or a similar drug that modifies the calcium channel, you may want to consult with a physician first. I seem to remember reading an article about 10 years ago that said that there was concern that using this sort of drug during exercise could have negative affects on the heart. Note: I've also heard that the antibiotic ciprofloxacin is to be avoided during endurance athletics for a similar reason. You also may want to ask your physician if the drug dicyclomine might help. Although it is usually prescribed for bowel problems, it does seem to help with certain types of nausea. It also helps with post-race stomach/bowel issues.



    “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” - Oscar Wilde

  • TheoTheo Member

    I find that everyone is different for what works. For me Meclazine works but despite what the label says I always recommend starting to take it at least 12 hours before your swim. (I usually start 2 days before a channel swim, observation, or race) I have also found that the patch doesn't work for me. I have not been adversely affected by the Meclazine in terms of my swimming but I am conscious to take in more fluids as it tends to dehydrate me.

    There are many other factors that contribute to my seasickness that I try to limit. Of course alcohol should be avoided, smoking, etc. I also find that over time I get more acclimated. I need to put in a number of sessions on the boat or swimming in the waves and I get better throughout the season. I am more acclimated in the fall than the start of the spring.

    Other things that I do to help mitigate my triggers I will swim out slightly farther from shore than some of my friends to avoid getting rolled in the swells as they starting cresting into waves. The other thing I have found is that I really can't observe the bottom if the water is clear enough to see it. When my eyes are seeing me sway back and forth relative to the bottom, and the kelp any other things are swaying even more it does not jive with my mind thinking I am moving only forward as I swim. I only open the eyes in those cases when I breathe or sight. I have no problem with my eyes open underwater when there is limited visibility and I don't have the bottom giving me a reference.

    For most of my fellow local swimmers that need sea sickness meds Meclazine (Bonine) seems to be the drug of choice.

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    I'm happy to report that in this year's 5+ mile swim, I didn't get seasick...well except for a moment of queasiness in the last half mile which I was able to swim through. I wish I could say it was something I did, but I think I got lucky due to great conditions! Current assist and mostly calm water until near the end. But I did feed earlier and more regularly w a couple ginger snaps shortly before the start and during the swim used Perpetuem which I'd trained with also the Glukos Energy gummier (similar to Cliff Shot Blocks in taste and texture. I wanted something solid but not too heavy and they did the trick... Oh and water w ginger extract which did nothing for me last year but I was fine w it this year. As w last year, I used ginger in stir fries and drank ginger tea etc. But I got seasick last year and not this year. Go figure!

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

    PS Curiously I don't get seasick in fresh water and this even in the 2 Bridges swim that involved swimming against a choppy Hudson River current. Another riddle!

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USMember

    @jendut – I will definitely try Exedrin Migraine.

    @Leonard_Jansen – Thanks for the caution of calcium channel meds. That cure could be a lot worse than sea sickness. I’ll look into dicyclomine.

    @Theo – Good advice on Meclazine. I wouldn’t have thought to start taking it so early. WRT being less prone to sea sickness later in the season, that agrees with sailing wisdom. I wish I lived closer to the coast so I could acclimatize more. I had forgotten, but I have had the swaying-plants-on-the-bottom nausea! Seeing the entire “bottom” of the lake move gave me almost instant motion sickness.

    @dpm50 – Glad to hear your seasickness is getting better. So there is hope!

    Thanks to everybody for your advice!


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • I, too, would medal in Olympic seasickness and have been contemplating options for an upcoming 12 mi relay. I've used ginger and scop patches for airline travel but never for swimming. I'm used to doing this race solo. Further complicating the situation, I'm a nursing mother. I'll definitely use ginger, but still need to research scop + baby.

  • danswimsdanswims Portland, ORMember

    Laura said: still need to research scop + baby.

    Minimal info available.

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USMember

    I tested Exedrin Migraine and Meclizine in the pool using the corkscrew drill, rotating freestyle to backstroke (or back to free) every stoke. 25 yards made me dizzy, and after about 15 seconds rest, a 2nd 25 yards caused nausea. (Adding more laps to see when – not if - I’d actually barf was so not going to happen.)

    Exedrin Migraine before practice (about 2 hours before the drill) helped noticeably. Taking it twice the day before and also before practice helped more.

    Meclizine was better for me than Exedrin Migraine. No nausea at all (!!) when I took it for 2 days before the test. I’m not concerned that I still got dizzy. That went away quickly. But I found I have to take it with caffeine, and the 1st day taking it I was very, very sleepy.

    Thanks to everyone for relating their experiences!


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • TheoTheo Member

    @JSwim I usually take the Meclizine right before I go to bed. That way the worst of the drowsiness is while I am already asleep. Get the generic at Sams Club or Costco $4 for a bottle of 100 chewable tablets.

  • I've always suffered badly from motion sickness on anything that moves. Planes, trains, automobiles, and boats, fairground rides, cars (when I'm not driving), etc. I swear by travacalm, 1/2 tablet 1hr before and every 4 hrs from then on.


  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaSenior Member

    It's official, I am a puker. I puked in the Strait of Georgia for 6 hours, I puked in the English Channel, my stomach seized last year in Cowichan Lake and I projectile vomited at least 5 times in Cowichan Lake this year after 4 hours of swimming and ultimately had to remove myself from the water after another 18 hours of trying to manage my belly.

    Last year @JenA had me reset my stomach using little sips of ginger (Canada Dry) for a few hours. It worked well. Unfortunately this year the conditions on the water were rough from the get go and the sickness extreme. We tried Gravol but this is not ideal when attempting a 50hr swim. Makes you sleepy. It helped a bit but not to the degree I needed. Clearly I need some type of extra super duper strength belly protection.

    I am a naturally dizzy person - I am prone to vertigo/motion sickness because of my MS - and have suffered from motion sickness all of my life. Merry-go-rounds and swing were a no-go for me as a kid.

    I am looking to do another extended swim in 2016 and would greatly appreciate suggestions beyond those mentioned above as I have tried most.

    Love the swim drill btw @JSwim. I will be sure to use that to help test.

  • JenAJenA Charter Member
    edited August 2015

    I knew a swimmer prone to exceptional nausea, who used an anti-nausea drug typically used during chemotherapy: Ondansetron HCL 8mg. It's not noted for motion sickness, however, my friend felt it helped.

    The folks that make Traumeel used to make a product called Vomitusheel, which seems to have been discontinued. You could probably make an equivalent product yourself. This was the ingredient list:

    • ipecacuanha (ipecacuanha): nausea And Vomiting, Coughing With Nausea.
    • aethusa (fool's Parsley): cramp, Pains, Vomiting Followed By Great Exhaustion; Milk Is Not Tolerated (brought Up Immediately By Children).
    • nux Vomica (vomit Nut): remedy For Affections Of The Stomach, Intestine And Liver; Gastroenteritis, Meteorism, Vomitus Matutinus.
    • apomorphinum Hydrochloricum (apomorphine Hydrochloride): nausea, Vomiting, Vomitus Matutinus.
    • colchicum (meadow Saffron): gastroenteritis, Nausea And Vomiting At The Smell Of Food, Tendency To Collapse.
    • lgnatia (st. Ignatius' Bean): globus Hystericus, Gastrointestinal Spasms, Meteorism, Acid Eructation.
  • IronMikeIronMike inch.houseboat.primeCharter Member

    msathlete said: Last year @JenA had me reset my stomach using little sips of ginger (Canada Dry) for a few hours.

    Did the Canada Dry use real ginger? Sometimes those ginger ales use artificial flavorings. I've not had this problem, but have family that do. We discovered long ago that many ginger ales don't have any ginger in them, so we spent the big bucks getting those real Ginger Ales at places like Whole Paycheck and that made all the difference.


    Where the hell is IronMike located? Find out here:

  • msathletemsathlete Victoria, British Colubia, CanadaSenior Member

    @ironmike that is a great question. Yes. It is made from real ginger. I also drank Tulsi during the night which had ginger in it. Just doesn't seem stong enough no mater how much I take :(

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