I’ve been getting a lot of questions about seasickness. Honestly, I didn’t even know there was such a thing until my first outreach assignment on the Atlantis two years ago. Seasickness is a type of motion sickness that happens on a boat when your brain gets mixed messages from your body.
You have sensory systems that tell your brain about your body’s movement and position in space. Your muscles and joints sense movement, your skin feels pressure and air changes, and your eyes see what’s happening around you. You also have special organs in your inner ear that control your sense of balance and equilibrium. If you’re sitting in a ship and the walls and tables are moving with your body, your eyes don’t see evidence of movement and send an “A-OK” message. Your other senses feel the movement and send a “Yikes!” message. Your brain handles the contradiction by making you feel sick.
It starts as an uneasy feeling in the stomach and progresses to cold sweats, dizziness and vomiting. People who are seasick have grayish or greenish looking skin, thus the term “green around the gills.” I hear it’s truly miserable! Most people get over it after a few days. Their brain gets used to their eyes telling a different story than their body. When people get off the ship and their eyes and body match again, it confuses their brain and they feel dizzy or like the ground is moving when it isn’t. That’s called dock rock and takes a few days to get over.
There is medicine available to prevent or reduce motion sickness. Many people take it for a day before getting on the ship and for the first few days until they’re used to the motion. The galley crew keeps ginger tea available for everyone for the first week and any time the seas are rough. The ginger is said to settle a queasy stomach. You can also ease the feeling by going outside and looking at the horizon, getting fresh air and taking calming breaths. Sometimes someone gets so sick that the only way to cure them is to take them back to land. That happened on this trip.
I’m always green around the gills!