Can Seasickness Kill You? (Can You Die From It?)

Seasickness easily stops fun and relaxation in its tracks. In fact, it might have gotten so bad that you’ve started wondering whether those episodes of extreme nausea could lead to anything worse. So what’s the deal -- can seasickness kill you? Here’s what you need to know before your next boating trip.

Can You Die From Seasickness?

Technically, you can’t die from seasickness itself. But if you experience sea sickness for too long and can’t stop vomiting, you put yourself at risk of dehydration and hypotension.

For individuals who already suffer from certain medical conditions especially those involving the kidneys and the heart are particularly at risk of severe and even life threatening complications.

That said, if a person develops severe motion sickness during a boat ride, it’s imperative that you head back to the nearest dock to prevent any potentially dangerous outcomes.

How Will You Actually Feel If You’re Seasick?

What many people don’t know is that there are different levels of severity for seasickness. Some of the milder and earlier phases of the condition aren’t always recognized because of the ambiguity of the symptoms.

Nonetheless, it’s important to be aware so you can spot its course of development and prevent severe symptoms before they rear their ugly heads.

Mild Seasickness

The first phase of seasickness happens after a few minutes of exposure to the recurrent ebbing of a boat on water. Most people don’t immediately tag these as seasickness symptoms because they’re not often associated with the condition.

  • Persistent yawning
  • Drowsiness
  • Sudden withdrawal or quietness

These indicate that the individual’s system is responding to the ever changing balance and movement. Blood rushes away from the brain as the body focuses on core organs. That’s why individuals might feel less engaged in terms of cognition, thus the resulting symptoms.

Moderate Seasickness

Most people who progress from mild to moderate seasickness will experience more palpable signs. At this phase, individuals are often more aware of their condition, and sense that they’re responding unpleasantly to the unnatural movement.

  • Lethargy
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • A desire to lie down
  • Pallor
  • Cold sweats
  • Lightheadedness
  • Flatulence
  • Feeling of unwell

Anyone who develops seasickness will often be stuck in this particular phase. The body continues to send blood to vital organs, shutting down other functions that produce the general feeling of unwell.

While it’s definitely not deadly at this point, it can be incredibly uncomfortable. If symptoms persist, it may be ideal to head to calmer water or to head back to the dock.

Severe Seasickness

This is when an individual is most at risk of the severe complications associated with seasickness. The body interprets the sudden discomfort as a potential ‘poison’, which is why it works to get the individual to throw up. Thus the symptoms of severe seasickness.

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Stomach pains
  • Cold sweat
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dry heaving
  • A watery taste in the mouth

Once the person throws up, they might feel much better as the body gets rid of the perceived poison. For some people, that could mean the end of the motion sickness episode all together. But others who don’t respond so well to the experience may continue vomiting and struggle to keep down food and fluid.

This is when seasickness becomes dangerous, causing a sudden dip in blood pressure and a significant loss of fluid which could lead to dehydration. People who have other conditions can become seriously endangered by these potential effects.

Has Anyone Ever Died From Seasickness?

The short answer is apparently, yes, there have been some accounts of people who have died from severe seasickness. One noteworthy occasion involved a woman who set out for an Arctic expedition in 2001.

Her severe seasickness caused life threatening complications, however it was not clear whether she suffered from any other medical conditions. Since they were a ways away from calm water and stable ground, her seasickness persisted until the complications ultimately did her in.

Fortunately, no one has to die of seasickness these days, especially if you’re just going on a casual family boating trip. With the right medication and preventive measures at the ready, you should be able to overcome the urge to purge and enjoy the rest of the trip.

The Fatal Dangers of Seasickness

Those who are most at risk of dying from seasickness are people who already have pre-existing medical conditions. Ultimately, what triggers these potentially life threatening complications are:

  • Dehydration
  • Hypotension

That’s why it’s important to find calm water after those first few symptoms of seasickness occur. This also means you have to consider how far away from the dock you plan to go, especially if you’ve got someone on board who’s prone to feeling seasick.

On the upside, a short episode of seasickness -- even at the worst severity -- is unlikely to cause any long term problems. Just make sure you head back to the dock or to calmer water so the symptoms can subside. It also doesn’t hurt to try a few remedies to ease the symptoms while you’re on your way back to shore.

What Are the Best Ways to Prevent Seasickness?

Since seasickness is a pretty common problem, there are more than a handful of remedies that you can bring along to prevent or mitigate the associated symptoms.

Any self-respecting sailor should have at least a few of these remedies at the ready in case anyone on-board battles it out with an episode of seasickness.

Motion Sickness Patch 

motion sickness patches

Usually stuck behind the ears, the motion sickness patch delivers a small dose of herbal or synthetic medication that works to stabilize certain hormones. We recommend the MQ Motion Sickness Patch.

Motion Sickness Tablets

motion sick tablets

Available in both homeopathic and synthetic variations, tablets for motion sickness help to resolve nausea and headaches to make you feel calmer during the trip. See these Hyland's motion sickness tablets.

Peppermint Oil or Candy

peppermint oil

Known to calm an upset stomach, taking a whiff of peppermint oil or sucking on candy is a popular natural way to relieve seasickness.

Ginger Tea

ginger tea

Ginger’s strong flavor and aroma can calm the stomach and provide near instant relief against nausea and headaches. Packing a bottle of ginger tea should help provide that calm you’re looking for. You can try the Prince of Peace Ginger Tea

Antihistamines

antihistamine

Taking an OTC antihistamine 30 to 60 minutes before your trip can significantly reduce the chances of motion sickness. If you’re particularly prone, consider popping a dose every six hours during the trip. We recommend Benadryl Antihistamine Tablets.

And then of course there are the seasickness relief techniques like listening to music, closing your eyes, focusing on the horizon, or massaging your pressure points.

Seasick No More

Can seasickness kill you? Apparently, yes. But it’s rare for people to experience life threatening complications associated with seasickness especially if you’re careful to pack the essentials. Make sure you have a seasickness remedy or two at the ready before you set sail so you can beat the urge to purge and enjoy the rest of your day out on the water.