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This time of year can bring windy and wavy conditions that can cause seasickness in people who are prone to the malady. Photo provided

By Steve Waters

Offshore fishing in Palm Beach County can be terrific following winter cold fronts. But those same fronts that have everything from snapper to sailfish biting also make for rough seas that can ruin an angler’s day.

Getting seasick is a common affliction when the strong winds that accompany cold fronts create big waves. Experts don’t know exactly what causes seasickness or how to cure it. The only certainty is that everybody, at some time, in some way — whether it’s a headache, queasiness or gut-wrenching vomiting — gets seasick.

Fortunately, there are plenty of remedies for seasickness that range from medications to common sense.

Most people believe seasickness has to do with the inner ear and its mechanisms for maintaining balance. Basically, as a boat rocks and rolls on the water, a boater’s eyes perceive all kinds of movement. The brain tells the inner ear that the body is moving. The inner ear tries to compensate for that perceived motion. And the boater becomes seasick.

That explains a couple of general seasickness advisories — don’t go inside a boat’s cabin when you’re feeling sick, and try to keep your eyes focused on the shoreline. Sitting in a cabin, you sense that everything in the cabin is moving. Remaining outside, you see only waves and the unchanging horizon.

Sailors, divers and anglers can take several precautions before traveling. Among them are getting a good night’s sleep before a trip and not drinking alcohol.

Drugs combat seasickness by interfering with the signals received by the inner ear. Most anti-seasickness drugs were developed for other purposes, such as nausea from chemotherapy.

The most common side effects of anti-seasickness drugs are drowsiness, occasional dizziness and dryness of the mouth.

A prescription scopolamine patch, which is placed on the skin behind the ear, reduces the activity of inner-ear nerves that can cause the nausea and vomiting of seasickness (as well as anesthesia and surgery).

The downside is it can make a boater fall asleep, which actually is not a bad way to deal with rough seas. If you can sleep with or without the use of drugs when you feel sick, you usually won’t suffer the worst effects of seasickness.

Over-the-counter products such as Dramamine and Bonine can make you tired, but not as sleepy. The key with those medications is to take them well in advance of your trip when you know that the waves are going to be big.

Charter fishing captains, especially those who fish in tournaments when seas could be as rough as 5 to 8 feet, advise their anglers to take a pill the night before the tournament and the morning before getting on the boat. They say their clients rarely get seasick.

As one captain explained, taking a seasickness pill for the first time is like smoking a cigarette for the first time. Your body needs time to get used to it. And if you wait until you feel seasick to take a pill, it’s usually too late.

Other products that can work, and without side effects, are bands that press on an acupressure point in the wrist or deliver an electronic pulse to the pressure point.

Seasickness can also be psychological. A drift boat captain said he’s seen anglers talk themselves into getting seasick because they couldn’t stop worrying about it, even when conditions weren’t that bad.

My favorite example was a seasick-prone sailor who was on a boat in choppy seas and felt great. His amazed friends asked him his secret, and he said it was the patch behind his ear. Someone looked behind his ear but did not see a patch and told him so. When the sailor put his hand behind his ear and didn’t feel anything, he promptly threw up.

Outdoors writer Steve Waters can be reached at steve33324@aol.com.

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