Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Whale Watching Gone Wrong

Let me be the first one to tell you that relocating for work is not for everyone. The amount of time and effort required is unbelievable, as you can judge from my lengthy lay-off on this blog. Now that my wife and I are ready to explore Sydney, we took to the sea in whale watching. It turned out that whale watching like relocation, is also not for everyone, especially those with weak stomaches.

I ended up seeing a whale tail for three seconds, but paid the price with three bags of vomit to go with four hours of seasick nausea. In my defense, I have never been sick at the sea. This time was different though as practically everyone else had at least a bag-full in his hand. Fortunately, the tour operator offered us a 50% refund and a free second trip. I suppose many people had complained after the ill-fated voyage. Missing out on humpbacks and blues the first time around, I am determined to sign up for round 2. As for my wife? Suffice to say she will never set foot on a whale watching boat again. Before my next "suicide mission" however, I did some research to ensure I will be prepared:

What is it, really?

In simplest terms, seasickness is a form of motion sickness.

Cause

When our eyes, inner ears, muscles, and joints simultaneously send mixed signals to confuse our brain. The clash of sensory information is passed along to the area postrema, which also controls vomiting. As for my case at sea, my eye saw the static horizon and the stationary interior of the boat while my inner ear and body felt the rolling of the waves.

Symptoms

  • Generally feeling unwell and weak
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Hyperventilating
  • Slight sweating leading to clammy skin
  • Excessive production of saliva
  • Losing colour in the face or turning red
  • Vomiting

Why Vomit?

No one knows for sure. One theory suggests that the vomiting response is caused by the brain’s futile attempt to rid the body of a perceived poison. Laboratory animals whose labyrinths (fluid-filled canals in the inner ears) are surgically removed are less likely to vomit when they ingest poison. Beware of excessive vomitting, as it can lead to dehydration, exhaustion and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

How to prevent/soothe seasickness

  • Get plenty of rest prior to the trip. Physical well being helps prevent seasickness.
  • Choose seats with the smoothest ride: usually centre of a boat and avoid going under deck.
  • Stay busy and keep your mind occupied. These are perhaps the best ways to avoid seasickness.
  • Get some fresh air and look into the distant horizon.
  • Lie down and avoid turning your head to swirl the fluids in the Labyrinths.
  • Take deep breaths and drink fluids periodically.
  • When on deck, face forward (rather than to the side).
  • Try an anti-seasickness wristband, which sends electrical currents to the median nerve in your wrist. Apparently, the wrist has an acupuncture point that prevents nausea and vomiting.
  • Take medication prior to the trip.

Medication

Medications are preventive, not curative. They either calm the nerves of the inner ear or soothe the brain’s vomiting centre. However, most motion sickness pills are only effective if they are taken before you feel sick. Take them 30 - 60 minutes before a trip to allow adequate absorption. Motion sickness pills often can induce drowsiness as a side effect.

Conclusion

Seasickness can strike anyone at any time. By taking the proper precautions however, you need not fret about going out to the beautiful sea. I know I won't!


- PTS

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