Shove boat: Patching together a cure
Last year I went on my first cruise, and it was truly paradise! The sun was shining in the Caribbean, a band was playing by the outdoor pools, a man greeted us with Bahama Mamas, and the ship was filled with anticipation.
I expected Julie McCoy and Captain Steubing (from that 1970s cheesefest known as the Love Boat) to invite us to dine at the Captain's table. But then... bleh! I was seasick. Why did I have to become seasick when I was having such a good time?
One large study showed that quite a few people experience motion sickness at sea: 21 percent felt "slightly unwell," 4 percent felt "quite ill," 4 percent felt "absolutely dreadful," and 7 percent vomited. I, however, felt "beyond dreadful and yakking." Check, please.
I should have known that I would have gotten motion sickness because when I was in college, I went fishing with some friends in a small boat. I remember when Tweety made Sylvester sick by rocking a picture of a boat while saying, "The boat wocked and wocked, back and fowth." That was me. My friends said, "Vomit on the other side of the boat so you don't scare the fish."
So this year on my second cruise, I came prepared with scopolamine patches. You have probably seen people wearing that funny thing behind the ear that looks like a round band-aid. Well, I joined that unfashionable crowd. I put the patch on six hours before I boarded the ship, and this time my Bahama Mamas went down and stayed down.
However, everything has side effects. When I awoke the next morning, I was dry as a Bounce laundry sheet. Also, because this medicine is anti-cholinergic, my pupils were enlarged so that I could not see anything close up. When I peered at my watch, it looked like it had melted under the sun. One of my friends gave me his reading glasses and called me "gramps."
I was fortunate, though. In the elderly, the patch can cause confusion and urinary retention (i.e. Gramps can't take a whiz). Those with glaucoma can't take the patch. (I guess I better get all my cruises in before I get too old for the patch!)
There are other medicines for motion sickness, but they tend to be too sedating. Once I took Antivert (meclizine) in Maine when I went whale-watching. Moby Dick could have swallowed me whole and burped me up without my knowing it. I actually fell asleep standing while leaning on a pole. I would occasionally wake up when I heard the crowd roar, "Oh! Look at that magnificent tail!" "Huh– oh, isn't that a....szzzz."
Valium is great for motion sickness, but you become a character in Valley of the Dolls. Antihistamines help some people, but they can be sedating as well. Patch, please!
If you're a Gilligan's Island fan (as I am), Ginger might be your favorite character. Because of its effect on gastric motility, ginger actually can help nausea– though not motion sickness itself so much. Patch, please!
As an Asian man, I love acupressure. For motion sickness, you press the palm side of the wrist about three fingerbreadths from the wrist fold. It appears to be pretty effective in relieving nausea. One of my friends on this year's cruise wore these Wonder Women bracelets that pushed down on the median nerves. It stopped his nausea, but he still had the "slightly unwell" feeling. Patch, please!
Because of my vision and dry mouth, I was stupid and took the patch off between St. Thomas and Nassau, the latter of which soon became Nausea. They can put a person on the moon, but can't they make a boat that doesn't rock?
"Rock the boat, Don't rock the boat baby, Rock the boat, Don't tip the boat over!"
Got a medical question? Dr. Hook wants to hear from you!