The Way You've Been Battling Seasickness Is All Wrong: I Tried the Method That Actually Works

I know the trick for avoiding a puke fest.

If you got your scuba certification on a fabulous trip in warm, calm Caribbean waters — well, good for you. I’m jealous. My scuba certification process was one of the most harrowing physical experiences of my life (apart from, perhaps carrying and birthing twins).

Because I was planning travels to Vietnam and Bali in January, my husband and I decided to quickly get certified in December ahead of that trip… and we did it where we live in Los Angeles.

Now, you are probably thinking of L.A.’s reputation for endless sun, but the region can get quite cold (by our own standards) in the wintertime, and this is especially true when you are plunging yourself into a frigid Pacific Ocean, in the rain, with water temperature hovering around 50 degrees. One more thing? Scuba certification around here typically occurs off Catalina Island, 26 miles offshore from Los Angeles. So consider 14-hour days on a frigid dive boat in rain and crazy choppy water, with a belly filled with butterflies to boot. It’s all a recipe for serious seasickness if you are prone. And I am very, very much prone.

Well, through this wild experience, I learned something very important about treating seasickness, from the good folks at the local dive shop — and it flies in the face of popular thinking, but it totally works.

Ready for it? Take Bonine, the Dramamine-like anti-seasickness medication — but don’t take it exactly as indicated on the label. The trick is you must take it the night before you’ll be going out on the water, so that the medication is squarely coursing through your system. Then take it again an hour before you go out to sea.

If, like many people, you take your first dose of meds when you are already out on a boat — or, even worse, when you’re already feeling seasick — you can forget it. You don’t have a prayer.

I took my meds using this method, following the advice of the dive shop staff, and I was pretty amazed with the effectiveness.

As I said, I’m majorly prone to seasickness but I held up OK on the first very long day out. Other people on our certification class were dropping like flies from nausea (and other afflictions). But by the end of that day, I was confident enough in the power of Bonine, with advance dosing, to ride inside the boat instead of staring into the horizon like other desperate folks. I put my head down on my bag on a table and nodded off, waking up from time to time to find my bag and head sliding from side to side rather violently. But no barfing for me.

On our second consecutive weekend out, I followed the same procedure, and didn’t fare quite as well — in part because the water was even more violent and the trip longer. And — you can’t make this stuff up — here’s what was on offer in the galley kitchen: chili, spaghetti, eggs with sausage, hot dogs. So yes, I was still a bit queasy, but it was manageable. Indeed, while it was vomit-central for many others on the boat, I’m proud to say I was the only woman to have finished the certification course at the end of the program. And I chalk it up, again, to starting the Bonine dosage the night before.

One more word to the wise from my experience: Bonine does cause drowsiness. We tried the same method when planning an excursion to an island offshore from Cartagena, Colombia on a subsequent trip. Without the adrenaline of the scuba certification experience, I ended up sleeping all day on the beach. All in all, a very pleasant experience — but not ideal if I'd needed to be alert.

Any health-related information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider for any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, or before embarking on any diet, exercise, or wellness program.

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