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Symptoms and treatment

The earliest signs and symptoms are yawning and drowsiness, progressing to dry mouth, headache, dizziness and extreme listlessness. Some people initially experience an unsettled stomach, slight sweating, mild blushing and a feeling of warmth. Untreated, the person becomes pale, cold and clammy. Nausea comes in waves with belching, salivation and then uncontrollable vomiting. Recognize and begin treatment with prescription anti-nausea medication (e.g. Phenergan) when early signs appear. Phenergan — taken as a pill, suppository or injection — will prevent vomiting and subsequent dehydration. During treatment, lie down and try to sleep. Take small amounts of fluid, crackers and hard candy.

Sailors now have many options to manage seasickness. It is no longer necessary to follow Samuel Johnson’s 18th century advice: “To cure seasickness, find a good big oak tree and wrap your arms around it.”

Dr. Michael Jacobs is co-author of “A Comprehensive Guide to Marine Medicine” and author of numerous articles and chapters on medicine for mariners and safety at sea. He is the founder of MedSail and teaches marine medicine around the country. A lifelong sailor, he practices medicine on Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

For more on seamanship & safety, go to www.soundingsonline.com.

This story first appeared in the January 2009 issue.

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