SEA-SICKNESS, the symptoms experienced by many persons when subjected to the pitching and rolling motion of a vessel at sea, of which depression, giddiness, nausea and vomiting are the most prominent. They generally show themselves soon after the vessel has begun to roll by the onset of giddiness and discomfort in the head, together with a sense of nausea and sinking at the stomach, which soon develops into intense sickness and vomiting. At first the contents of the stomach only are ejected; but thereafter bilious matter, and occasionally even blood, are brought up by the violence of the retching. The vomiting is liable to exacerbations according to the amount of oscillation of the ship; but seasons of rest, sometimes admitting of sleep, occasionally intervene. With the sickness there is great physical prostration, as shown in the pallor of the skin, cold sweats and feeble pulse, accompanied with mental depression and wretchedness. In almost all instances the attack has a favourable termination, except in the case of persons weakened by other diseases.
The conditions concerned in the production of the malady are apparently of complex character. In the first place, the rolling or heaving of the vessel disturbs that feeling of the relation of the body to surrounding objects upon which the sense of security rests. The nervous system being thus subjected to a succession of shocks fails 1 Zoologist, p. 2395.
Op. cit., p. 2356 (1849).
Of. cit. p. 358. 4 Graphic (3Oth June 1877).
to effect the necessary adjustments for equilibrium.- Giddiness and with it nausea and vomiting follow, aided probably by the profound vaso-motor disturbance which produces such manifest depression of the circulation. The displacement of the abdominal viscera, especially the stomach, by the rolling of the vessel may possibly operate to some extent, but it can only be as an accessory cause. The same may be said of the influence of the changing impressions made upon the vision, since attacks of sea-sickness occur also in the dark, and in the case of blind persons. Other contributory causes may be mentioned, such as the feeling that sickness is certain to come, which may bring on the attack in some persons even before the vessel has begun to move ; the sense of the body being in a yielding medium, the varied odours met with on board ship, and circumstances of a like nature tend also to precipitate or aggravate an attack.
No means has yet been discovered which can altogether prevent the occurrence of sea-sickness, nor is it likely any will be found, until the pitching movements of the vessel are done away with. Swinging couches or chambers have not proved of any practical utility. No doubt there is less risk of sickness in a large and wellballasted vessel than in a small one; but, even though the rolling may be considerably modified, the ascending and descending movements which so readily produce nausea continue. None of the medicinal agents proposed possess infallible properties: a remedy which suits one person will often wholly fail with another. Nerve sedatives are among the most potent drugs which can be employed ; and doses of bromide of potassium, bromural or chloral, appear to act usefully in the case of many persons. On the other hand, some high authorities have recommended the employment of nerve stimulants, such as a small cupful of very strong coffee, to be taken about two hours before sailing, which will frequently prevent or mitigate the sickness. When the vessel is in motion, or even before starting, the recumbent position with the head low and the eyes closed should be assumed by those at all likely to suffer, and, should the weather admit, on deck rather than below the body, especially the extremities, being well covered. Many persons, however, find comfort and relief from lying down in their berths with a hot bottle to the feet, by which means sleep may be obtained, and with it a temporary abatement of the giddiness and nausea. Should sickness supervene small quantities of some light food, such as thin arrowroot, gruel or soup, ought to be swallowed if possible, to lessen the sense of exhaustion. The vomiting may be mitigated by saline effervescing drinks, ice, chloroform, hydrocyanic acid or opium. Alcohol, although occasionally useful in great prostration, generally tends rather to aggravate the sickness. Dr Chapman, in accordance with his view that the cause of the sickness is an undue afflux of blood to the spinal cord, introduced a spinal ice-bag; but, like every other plan of treatment, it has only occasional success. Such remedies as nitrite of amyl and cocaine do not seem to yield any better resuks.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)