AskDefine | Define seasickness

Dictionary Definition

seasickness n : motion sickness experienced while traveling on water [syn: mal de mer, naupathia]

User Contributed Dictionary


Alternative spellings



  1. A feeling of nausea, dizziness etc caused by the motion of a ship; a form of motion sickness.


Coordinate terms


a feeling of nausea caused by the motion of a ship

Extensive Definition

Seasickness is a form of motion sickness characterized by a feeling of nausea and, in extreme cases, vertigo experienced after spending time on a craft on water. It is typically brought on by the rocking motion of the craft. Some people who are particularly vulnerable to the condition with minor stimulus and will feel seasick simply by setting foot on a boat, even if the vessel is in dry dock while others are relatively immune, or become immune through exposure. who, through dehydration following vomiting, are at increased risk of decompression illness.


Human beings instinctively seek to remain upright by keeping their centre of gravity over their feet. The most important way this is achieved is by visual reference to surrounding objects, such as the horizon. Seasickness often results from the visual confusion on a moving craft, when nearby objects move with the motion of the craft. Because the lines of the masts, windows, and furniture on a ship are constantly shifting with respect to fixed references, humans can suffer a number of afflictions, especially those unaccustomed to being at sea.
Sea-sickness has such a remarkable effect because both the sense of sight and touch are disturbed by the motion of a craft on water. The severity of seasickness is also influenced by the irregular pressure of the bowels against the diaphragm as they shift with the rising and falling of the ship.
In his book The Human Body, Isaac Asimov related the anecdote about a seasick passenger whom a steward cheerfully assured that nobody ever died from seasickness. The passenger muttered, "Please--it's only the hope of dying that's keeping me alive."
Many experience similar effects while not at sea:
  • in railway carriages
  • in automobiles
  • on swings
  • while looking from a lofty precipice where known objects, being distant, are viewed under a new aspect and not so readily recognised
  • while walking on a wall or roof
  • while looking directly up to a roof
  • while observing the stars in the zenith
  • on walking into a round room, where there are no perpendicular lines of light and shade and the walls and ceiling are covered with an irregularly-spotted design
  • on twirling round, as in waltzing
  • while watching video captured by an unsteady camera

Prevention and remedy

Over-the-counter and prescription medications such as dramamine and scopolamine (as transdermal patches and tablets) are readily available though SCUBA divers must evaluate the risks versus the benefits. Ginger capsules are also considered effective in preventing motion sickness. Some sufferers find that wearing special wristbands helps stave off the condition.
Those suffering from seasickness who are unaccustomed to the motion of a ship often find relief by:
  • by keeping one finger over one ear (blocking one ear). This stops the balancing liquid near your ears from moving around, therefore stopping the brain from detecting any motion sickness
  • keep your mind occupied
  • taking anti-seasickness/nausea capsules
  • keeping their eyes directed to the fixed shore or horizon, where possible
  • lying down on their backs and closing their eyes
  • drinking any substance that is likely to temporarily diminish their senses of sight and touch
  • move into a position where fresh air is blowing on their face
  • sucking on crystallised ginger, sipping ginger tea or taking a capsule of ginger.
  • moving to the boat's center of gravity to eliminate motion due to pitch, roll and yaw (but not translation)
  • taking the helm of a yacht can reduce sickness as the sufferer has something to concentrate on, and can also anticipate the movement of the vessel
Unlike other causes of nausea, such as drinking excessive alcohol or eating spoiled food, vomiting does not usually relieve the feelings of nausea, and instead can lead to exacerbated nausea and further vomiting.


See also

seasickness in German: Reisekrankheit
seasickness in Dutch: Zeeziekte
seasickness in Polish: Choroba morska
seasickness in Russian: Морская болезнь
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