I come from a land locked place (in Canada) where there are no oceans around and just lakes. Whenever I go on a boat in a lake in Canada, I never get seasick and I feel fine. Sometimes when I come to a place like Mexico and I go out on the ocean, I get sea sick easily while others feel fine. I was wondering if getting sea sick can be caused by not being used to being out on the ocean where the waters rougher? This might be a little off topic but does the ocean have seasons for when the waters are calmer and are there places in the ocean that are calmer then others (Is it better to go farther out? Are you better to stay off the oceans and instead go on a gulf/sea where possible?)

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    When looking at medications, be careful with Scopolamine (a common one for those behind the ear patches). It gave my wife severe hallucinations and delusions. It's a rare reaction, but not something you want to deal with on a cruise ship! Testing out any medications before hand is probably a good idea.
    – House
    Feb 13, 2013 at 21:11
  • @Byte56: It's also a dose-dependent reaction. Be very careful. Jun 6, 2014 at 6:50

6 Answers 6


I have written an article about seasickness, so I will give a resume.

  • Seasickness has nothing to do with willpower. If someone accuses you of that, tell him that Horatio Nelson and Shackleton on the "James Caird" were both seasick.
  • The exact cause of seasickness is still unknown. The "frame of reference" theory has the flaw that blind people can get seasick, too. It seems that the H1-Rezeptor of histamine in the brain is responsible for seasickness because only medicine against nausea which is also working on this receptor works against seasickness.

  • Condition: The worse your condition, the higher the risk of getting seasick. Most important is getting sleep and being warm. Do not use any stimulants: No alcohol, smoking or coffee.

  • Eating,drinking and smells: Breath fresh, cold air. Any obnoxious smell is triggering seasickness very fast. If you cannot escape the smell, use peppermint oil under your nose or suck menthol candys. If you realize that it does not help anymore, remove the candy at once. Do not eat fish, meat or softdrinks because they are producing acid in your stomach. Do not eat (with exception of menthol etc.) food with strong smell or taste. Do eat bananas and raw carrots because you can swallow it back (You cannot do that ? Once your stomach is empty, seasickness will NOT cede, but you will experience EXTREMELY UNCOMFORTABLE seizures.)

  • Transportation: The bigger, the better. Move yourself to the center of mass because the movements are smallest in this area (Ship down if you have fresh air, over the wings in planes). Lying is better than sitting is better than standing. The feet are always showing in the travel direction. Look forward, not sideways. Remove any moving things out of your view. Do NOT read or look TV !

  • Medicine: I have made the experience that different people react differently to various medicines. Try them out. The available medicines are ginger (very friendly to the stomach), high doses of vitamine C (according to Reinhard Jarisch the H1 receptor rapidly consumes this vitamine under stress), Do not use Metoclopramid (Cerucal, Paspertin, MCP, Gastronerton). It does not work against seasickness. The known substances are (in order of average effect): Dimenhydrinat (Dramamine, Reisegold, Superpep, Vomex, Vomacur, Dramamin, Gravol, Vertirosan), Cinnarizin (Stugeron/Stunarone, Jannsen), Meclizin (Bonamine, Dramamine II, Antivert, Postafen, Itinerol), Scopolamine (Scopoderm TTS). Promethacine (Phenergan, Promethegan, Romergan, Fargan, Farganesse, Prothiazine, Avomine, Atosil, Rhinathiol) is one of the strongest medicines, but has a rare and very ugly life-threatening side effect, the neuroleptic malignant syndrome. In extreme cases (patient contemplates suicide) Chlorpromacine (Thorazine) and Prochlorperazine will be used under medical supervision.

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    What's that bit about bananas and raw carrots? I didn't get that. Jun 22, 2015 at 16:39
  • Very nice answer! This got me to try Meclizin today - which was not available to me before being in Brazil - and I can say that is life-changing! Even rough seas I was only nauseous and dizzy after over 6 hours. With Dramamine, I got sea-sick in under 30 mins in much more calm waters and without, it usually takes me under 5 minutes :(
    – Itai
    Mar 13, 2017 at 23:47

Familiarity can certainly reduce the likelihood of sea sickness, as your body can get used to it.

The usual problem is the swell - which you just don't get on lakes. Out on the ocean you have no stationary frame of reference so your brain starts to believe the boat is stationary. As it is actually moving, this confuses your brain and causes sickness.

Different areas have different bad seasons and some seas are worse than others but generally the bigger the expanse of water the bigger the waves and swell.

If you are actually wanting a cure, have a read of this question over on Go Outdoors.


Sea sickness can also differ from sea to sea, from ocean to ocean and from boat to boat. I am not so sure if familiarity helps. I know someone who has been sailing the seas for years, but when he got on to the North sea, he got sea sick. Being raised in a landlocked area is not necessarily relevant. Furthermore the type of boat has an influence as well. I am always amazed how quickly people "cure" from sea sickness. Sometimes it is as fast as turning a corner or cape. It is a complex mix of boattype, currents, winds, shallowness, etc.

The main advice preventing sea sickness is that once you have it get on deck and stare to the horizon! The worst thing you can do is stay in your cabin. This is usually what you want to do when being sea sick, but it can make things worse.


Sea sickness feeling really depends on the size of the boat.

For instance : during a cruise in January, we had a stopover at Cozumel island; since part of the proposed excursions were on mainland Mexico, many had to board a small catamaran ferry for the crossing; and the sea was not forgiving on that day.

Many guys who were fine on the cruise ship (a big NCL one) were sick on this short 20-minute crossing. Interestingly, the small boat had 2 decks. I had the reflex to sit on the upper, open-air one; most passengers here had no sickness. Later, I checked the lower, enclosed deck; sickness arose so quickly there that crew members were giving barf bags away.

Bigger vessels are more stable, and being in open-air also helps.


Sea sickness happens to everyone and sometimes in very unexpected situations. I've seen brave and experienced sailors getting sea sick, so it's not all about experience, though it helps.

I can give you a few advices:

  1. try to get fresh air / if you're inside the boat get outside.
  2. look at the horizon line. Looking at a more stable, distant point helps
  3. try to distract yourself. Don't focus on the sea sickness. Do something (it helps me). Specially if it involves some degree of attention / responsibility.
  4. If you're doing a task and start feeling sea sick stop doing it if possible (don't let it grow). Try point 1 and 2
  5. If you have control over the boat / ship steering, and it's safe, put the boat (bow and stern) in the same direction of the waves. (If possible sail in the same direction of the waves. This will make going up and down the wave softer.)

Try to avoid having your stomach empty. It's more painful if you get to such a state. Eat soft flavoured food. Avoid strong flavours and smells.

There are also pills that help to avoid sea sickness. They work but it's not 100% fail safe. (it should be easy to find them in any pharmacy).


I've heard it explained on the MythBusters tv show that it's that you being stationary in relation to what you see with your eyes, and perhaps your innner ear telling you that you are moving. Only thing that seemed to help in their tests was eating ginger.

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    I can confirm at least for me that Ginger works the best for seasickness. Don't know the science but I'd drink some ginger extract tea and I feel better than without ginger.
    – toy
    Feb 13, 2013 at 16:04

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