How to prevent sea-sickness when ocean swimming

Over the years I’ve had a handful of OceanFit participants who’ve suffered from sea-sickness when swimming in the ocean – and it doesn’t sound good!

Some of them first realise it will be a problem while participating in one of our clinics (when we bob up and down out behind the waves learning ocean swimming techniques), others get a rude shock when taking on their first ocean swim.

One of my favourite participants, Ann, even swum the Bondi To Bronte spewing up the whole way – nothing was going to stop her!

Having never experienced sea-sickness myself – a huge relief as I have done plenty of off-shore sailing as a youngster – I can only offer advice from what my clients have told me worked or didn’t work, for them.

See if any of this relates to you, and give the recommended treatments a go… and let me know if you have any tips or tricks of your own, and we’ll add them to the list.

When are you likely to feel sea-sick?

  • When the swell is rolling in, and you’re swimming off-shore.
  • When you stop and tread water/float in the same spot out in the open water (with or without the swell)

Who gets sea-sick ocean swimming?

  • Usually those who get similar feelings when driving long distances in a car, on boats etc
  • All the people who have asked me about seasickness have been women (and there’s some truth to females being more susceptible)

What will getting sea-sick ocean swimming feel like?

  • You’ll know it when you have it!
  • The primary feeling will be of nausea, and some people feel dizziness and headaches
  • Descriptions from sufferers make it sound like something they wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy!

How do I stop getting sea-sick when ocean swimming?

  • Keep away from alcohol and foods that you know don’t agree with you, the day before, and on the day of your swim (don’t try anything new)
  • Don’t overeat, and keep hydrated (but don’t over hydrate)
  • Over-the-counter antihistamines* can sometimes prevent and treat sea-sickness
  • Travel sickness tablets* (like Kwells or Travacalm in Australia) or patches
  • Wristbands (like Sea-Band) that operate by using acupressure
  • Ginger tablets, ginger tea, ginger ale…
  • Avoid swimming when there’s a large swell
  • Keep your mind occupied with other things, try singing to yourself!
  • Keep yourself distracted by staying and playing in the waves

Preventing sea-sickness can be a very personal thing, what works for one person, may not work for another. And by the sounds of it, what works one time, might not work another!

*Important note: Drowsiness is a common side effect of motion sickness drugs. Swimming while on these drugs may not be advisable. It’s a good idea to discuss the pros and cons with your doctor and try out the medication before swimming so you can gauge any ill effects.

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