Why Do We Become Sea-sick?
We become sea-sick because our balancing organs, the labyrinthine portions of the inner ear, are disturbed by out-of-level movements, by sudden turning movements, or by sudden changes in movements in a straight line, either horizontal or vertical.
The ear has three semicircular canals, filled with fluid and set on different planes in the ear. When sudden movements occur, each canal is affected differently. As a result, nerves in the canals send conflicting information to the brain, so giddiness is likely to occur.
Nowadays, seasickness comes under the general heading of motion sickness, a name invented by Sir Frederick Banting in 1939, which includes the discomfort people feel while traveling in all kinds of vehicles.
Sea-sickness may vary with individuals from slight uneasiness to complete prostration. The symptoms are pallor, cold sweating, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms can strike suddenly, progressing from simply not feeling well to cold sweats, dizziness, and then vomiting. Sea-sickness is more common in women and in children 2-12 years old. People who suffer from migraine headaches are also more prone to motion sickness.
People who have lost their ear labyrinths because of disease do not become seasick. Others become resistant to it. We say they develop their “sea-legs”, but it would appear to be an adjustment of the central nervous system rather than the organs of balance. Some people find it helpful to keep their gaze firmly fixed on a steady object.
If you know you have motion sickness or might be prone to it, consider this advice:
- On a ship: When making your reservations, choose a cabin in the middle of the ship and near the waterline. When on board, go up on deck and focus on the horizon.
- In an airplane: Request a window seat and look out the window. A seat over the front edge of the wing is the most preferable spot (the degree of motion is the lowest here). Direct the air vent to blow cool air on your face.
- On a train: Always face forward and sit near a window.
- In a vehicle: Sit in the front seat; if you are the passenger, look at the scenery in the distance. For some people, driving the vehicle (rather than being a passenger) is an instant remedy.