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Preventing Motion Sickness on a Cruise

4 steps to help you avoid seasickness during your next cruise

Avoid motion sickness and enjoy your cruise

Most large, modern cruise liners have stabilizers. So your trip should be smooth sailing. — Photo by Digital Vision/Getty Images

It’s no coincidence that the root of the word “nausea” is naus, the Greek word for “ship.” Motion sickness is a common ailment — especially on boats. The condition occurs when your brain gets conflicting signals. Your eyes sense relative stillness, but your balance and position centers sense motion. The mechanism that the body uses to determine motion and orientation becomes confused, and the result is an upset stomach, belching, nausea, vomiting, headache and sweating.

Will you get sick? Well, women are a bit more susceptible, as are those who suffer from migraines and inner ear problems. If you get car sick, you’re also more likely to get motion sickness on a cruise. All that said, many people who travel by car and airplane with ease still get seasick because of the unique low frequency and rocking motion of a boat. With proper planning, however, you can prepare for, alleviate and maybe even prevent this annoying condition.

Get thee to a doctor

Talk to your physician before your cruise. There are a few medications that can prevent and treat the symptoms of motion sickness. The most common over-the-counter drugs include dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). These drugs, however, can cause sedation, blurry vision and, in some people, confusion and urinary problems.

Prescription sedative and antinausea medications (ondansetron) can also be effective for some people. The most commonly prescribed medication, though, is scopolamine, which comes in a patch that you wear behind your ear. It’s a preventative medication, so you apply it before you set sail, and one patch works for 72 hours. Once again, this medication can cause sedation, dry mouth, confusion and an inability to urinate. Also, it shouldn’t be used by people at risk for a certain type of glaucoma, so check with your doctor.

If you still get seasick, don’t hesitate to visit the ship’s doctor.

Consider alternative treatments

Acupressure at the wrist has been effective in some patients: remember, the P6 pressure point is three fingerbreadths above the wrist crease. Also, magnets have been touted as a potential treatment — there are even magnet bracelets you can wear. Finally, some people find that ginger alleviates or prevents stomach problems. None of these alternative treatments has undergone extensive testing, though, so they really aren’t scientifically proven remedies.

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Samantha Brown, AARP Travel Expert

Meet Samantha Brown

AARP's travel ambassador is on board to help you be a happy, savvy traveler


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