Can Snorkeling Make You Seasick?

Last Updated: March 16, 2023

Snorkeling is one of the safest ways to uncover the incredible mysteries of the underwater world. It’s easy on your back and allows you to keep breathing even with your face fully submerged in water.

However, in some cases, people complain that it leaves them feeling dizzy, fatigued, and even nauseous.

So, can snorkeling make you seasick, or are such complaints triggered by something else? The answer is a definite yes, snorkeling can leave you seasick although this happens on extremely rare occasions.

Some of the potential triggers of seasickness during snorkeling include erratic motion in the water, pressure changes, and the lack of water among others.

snorkeling seasick

How Do We Get Seasick?

We get seasick when the brain receives conflicting stimuli from our eyes and ears. For example, if your eyes sense that you are stationary yet your ears sense that you are in motion, your brain is likely to receive confusing messages.

Ordinarily, your brain is wired to receive harmonious feedback from both your eyes and ears. When this fails to happen, the brain concludes that all is not well and triggers all kinds of defenses including vomiting as a protective measure just in case you have ingested a poisonous substance.

In other words, it is your body’s natural way of reacting to the mixed signals that are bound to occur as you tour the underwater world.

Is Motion Sickness the Same Thing as Seasickness?

Yes, it is almost the same. Seasickness is one type of motion sickness just like airsickness and carsickness. Seasickness is a type of motion illness that happens in an aquatic environment.

Motion sickness arises when the body experiences constant movements that are not perceived by the eyes.

What Causes Seasickness While Snorkeling

When you are snorkeling there are different issues that can cause nausea. Some of these factors include:

Constant head movement

If you move your head a lot, which is common with new snorkelers, it could get you in trouble. The excessive movement could be from the excitement of being underwater, or due to safety concerns. Whatever the cause, always control your head motions to avoid getting sick.

Water movement

Your eyes may not see all the water movements. However, the body can sense the currents, swells, and tide motions. The continuous tosses can make you dizzy.

Improper breathing

When underwater, you should take deep and slow breaths. If you change your breathing patterns to shallow or deep breaths, you are likely to feel nauseous.

An ear imbalance

The imbalance arises when your middle ears sense the change of pressure in your environment. Diving can also cause the ears to experience different pressure levels on each ear. This imbalance can cause seasickness.

An acid reflux

If you snorkel on a full stomach, especially after you take a spicy meal, it is possible to have an acid reflux if you swim vertically.

Excessive photography

If your main interest is photography, you will probably focus on still images most of your time. As you do so, everything else around you is in constant motion. The confusion may eventually make you seasick.

When in rough waters

Life jackets or snorkeling vests, though a necessity when in water, tend to keep you near the water surface where there may be excessive movement. The back-and-forth tosses can make you queasy.

If famished or dehydrated

Snorkeling when you have not had adequate food and are not well-hydrated can make you nauseous. It is wise to hydrate and take regular meals when on a break.

How to Avoid it

If you are prone to seasickness, it is best to prevent the problem rather than seek treatment after it arises. Below are some useful tips you can use to avoid seasickness.

  • Take antihistamines – Allergy medication is also good for preventing seasickness. However, be sure to use it carefully since it can make you drowsy.
  • Take a 2-3 hours break after a meal – Rest for two to three hours after you eat for the food to digest. A dip into the water while on a full stomach is likely to make you sick.
  • Take ginger – Ginger is good for preventing nausea. You can take anything with ginger. Be it ginger tea, cookies, or ginger supplement.
  • Do not take alcohol – Alcohol may make one sick or confused even in ordinary circumstances. It would be an oversight to drink when on a snorkeling trip.
  • Try earplugs – Your inner ear senses the different pressures in the underwater environment. It can cause an imbalance that could lead to seasickness. You can use earplugs to stop the pressure effects.
  • Don’t snorkel in bad weatherIf the wind is strong, waves are high, the current fast, and the swells large, do not snorkel. Alternatively, you could ask your guide to show you a location where there is less turbulence.
  • Use acupressure wristband – The wristbands are clinically proven as an effective relief for nausea and motion sickness. It puts pressure and stimulates Nei-Kuan or P-6 acupressure point to prevent and stop nauseous feelings.
  • Take seasickness medication – If nothing else works, take seasickness tablets like Dramamine or any other type of medication your doctor may prescribe for you.

How to Deal with Nausea While Snorkeling

If you suddenly get seasick while snorkeling, take the following actions:

  • Get into a vertical position
  • Get your ears out of the water
  • Take slow and deep breaths
  • If in shallow waters, stand up
  • If in deep waters, use your floater to be buoyant
  • Focus your eyes on a stable location like the horizon or land
  • If your condition does not improve, exit from the water
  • In an extreme situation, you can hand signal for help

Should I Take Dramamine Before Snorkeling?

Yes, you can use Dramamine before snorkeling. The medication is effective for nausea and vomiting. Be sure to take the medicine at least 12 hours before you start to snorkel.

Please be aware the medication has some common side effects such as constipation, dry mouth, and drowsiness. In rare cases, you can get severe adverse reactions such as serious confusion and eye pains.

Disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor before using any new medication.

Can I Get Nausea After Snorkeling?

Yes, you can get nausea after snorkeling. Your brain may get confused by conflicting feedback from your sensory organs and thereby trigger nausea as a defense mechanism.

To alleviate seasickness after snorkeling, stare at the horizon and keep hydrating. In case you have water in your ears, which may worsen your condition, apply eardrops to dry them.

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