What To Do If You Love Scuba Diving But Get Seasick

Most of us scuba divers have been there, you get on the dive boat to have the dive of your life, but the ocean tests you with rough seas catching you off guard, and you start to feel your breakfast making a second appearance...

Seasickness/motion sickness is extremely common, even the most experienced divers get that urge to lean over the side of the boat, counting down the minutes until they are on dry land.

If you have ever been one of those poor souls to get seasick, I’m sure you remember how draining it felt. But, with the right preparations before stepping on the boat, you can try to overcome seasickness, so you do not have to worry about missing that epic dive!


What Causes Us to Get Seasick?

Seasickness is a form of motion sickness experienced at sea.

When you are sitting on the boat, the boat rocks on the water, and the body, inner ear, and eyes send different signals to the brain. This confuses the brain and your body sends a stress response, which is why you start to feel queasy.


How Can You Prevent & Ease Seasickness?

Being prepared before you get on the boat will put your mind at ease and hopefully prevent you from getting the urge to be sick. Below are some top tips to help!

  • Seasickness pills: Tablets such as Dramamine or Bonine are great remedies to prevent seasickness. Many seasickness tablets need to be taken 12 hours before getting on the boat, so always check the packaging before taking.

  • Natural remedies: Ginger, peppermint or liquorice are great to have handy - you can buy sweets/candies to chew on to help relieve the symptoms of feeling seasick.

  • Change your position on the boat and get fresh air.

  • Gaze at the horizon.

  • Wear an acupressure band on your wrist. These bands are clinically proven to relieve nausea and motion sickness. I recommend the company Sea-Band.

  • Make sure you get enough sleep the night before your dive.

  • Eat something before heading out on the boat, but don’t overdo it.

  • Finally, if you need to throw up, then let it out… There is nothing worse than trying to hold it in. Having been there myself, it can feel embarrassing, especially if you are the only one hanging over the side of the boat. But, trust me, letting it out will make you feel so much better afterwards!


How to Ease Seasickness?

If you have skipped the seasickness pills, or are unprepared and have started to feel the urge of feeling sick, there are a few things you can do.

  1. Assemble & prepare your dive equipment early.

  2. Choose an area on the boat where there is less motion - usually, the middle of the boat, towards the back is the “go-to” area when feeling seasick.

  3. Stay away from the boat engines - the smell of the fuel can make nausea worse.

  4. Avoid direct sunlight on the boat & stay hydrated.

  5. Look at the horizon - focusing on a still object in the distance is known to ease motion sickness.

  6. Remove yourself from others who are suffering from seasickness - hearing other people being sick or seeing them vomit can make you feel sick too.

  7. If possible, try to nap between dives - this helps reset your inner ear, which causes the imbalance resulting in motion sickness.

  8. If you start to feel nauseous, tilt your head to the side - this gives your brain a different angle to work with.

  9. Have a fizzy drink - Did your mum ever give you a “Lucozade” when you had an upset tummy? Sometimes carbonated soda drinks can relieve gas build-up, settling your stomach.

  10. If you can, get into the water - being in the water usually makes you feel much better than being on a rocking boat, especially during the surface interval.


Will Feeling Seasick Prevent You From Diving?

Even though feeling sick is not dangerous, the effects of it when diving can cause some risks. The obvious one is vomiting. After vomiting, you are most likely going to be dehydrated.

For those that skipped the physiology section during your dive training, dehydration increases the risk of decompression sickness - which we all want to avoid!

So, if you have been sick underwater, it is a good idea to grab an electrolyte drink to rehydrate quickly to prepare you for the next dive. It is also recommended to stay shallow at the beginning and monitor how you are feeling to prevent vertigo underwater. If you start to feel the signs of vertigo, signal your dive buddy, and if the symptoms worsen, it is always best to cancel the dive.


What To Do If You Still Feel Nauseous Underwater?

Most of the time, after feeling seasick, the symptoms will die down as you start descending. However, if you are very sensitive to motion sickness, your symptoms may continue when underwater.

This is usually due to two reasons: the water conditions are not ideal (surge, strong currents etc) or the seasickness from the boat is still not easing. Big surge underwater can feel like you are on a swing, so your brain has the same reaction to swaying on the boat, therefore the motion sickness returns.

If you do feel the urge to vomit when scuba diving, the most natural response is to remove your regulator from your mouth... You MUST NOT do this.

After vomiting, our body’s first reaction is to take a sharp breath, so it is vital to keep your regulator in your mouth, so you do not take a breath of saltwater.

As we know, being sick is not the most stationary activity, and while at home we can grab onto the toilet bowl, underwater we do not have that option. Therefore, try to stabilise yourself by holding onto your dive buddy or something underwater such as a mooring line, whilst physically holding the regulator in your mouth.

Many people’s reaction to removing the regulator is due to the fear of choking on your vomit, it was mine too the first time I was sick underwater! But, when you vomit in a regulator, it will come out of the exhaust valves on the side. As your second stage has a one-way demand system, you will get a breath of air on your next breath intake.

On very rare occasions, vomit can creep in. To prevent this, touch the roof of your mouth with your tongue. One thing I also like to do, is press the purge button as I am being sick to flush the regulator better.

One good thing that comes out of vomiting underwater is the “fish food” you provide to the underwater residents. So at least there is something to distract you whilst you do your business!

Once you have finished emptying your stomach contents, you will likely want to switch to your octopus (alternate regulator).

Even though vomiting underwater is not a “cancel-the-dive” scenario, you should always monitor how you feel throughout the dive. Never feel bad if you want to end the dive early - it is totally acceptable and your dive buddy will understand, they may have even been there themselves.

Once back on land, take extra time to clean your regulator, and if you are worried about the internal parts, take them to a professional to be serviced.

If you have rented equipment, just let the dive shop know what has happened. You wouldn’t have been the first person to vomit in a rented reg, and you most certainly will not be the last!


So, by now, you should feel more prepared if you are to ever feel seasick during the dive, or know what to do if your dive buddy suffers from motion sickness.

Remember to always drink plenty of fluids after the dive and remember, if you feel seasick, do not feel embarrassed, we have all been there once, or know someone that has.


Written by Darby Bonner

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