Tag Archives: seasickness

Medical Problems in Sea Survival

PH1 David B. Loveall

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Seasickness is the nausea and vomiting caused by the bobbing motion created by the wave action of a flotation device. Seasickness can result in:

  • Dehydration and exhaustion.
  • A loss of the will to survive.
  • Others becoming seasick.
  • Unclean conditions.

To treat seasickness,wash yourself and the flotation device to remove the sight and odor of vomit, do not eat until the nausea is gone, rest if possible, medicate if available.

Saltwater Sores/Ulcers

Saltwater sores and ulceration occur when skin that has abrasions or is cut is exposed to saltwater. The sores  may form scabs and pus. Do not open or drain. Flush the sores with freshwater, if available, and allow to dry. Apply antiseptic, if available.


Irritants or the effects of the sun’s rays reflecting off the water can cause temporary blindness or headaches. If flames, smoke, or other irritants get in your eyes, flush the eyes immediately  with saltwater, then with freshwater, if available. Apply an ointment, if available. Bandage both eyes for 18 to 24 hours or longer if the damage is severe. If glare from the sky and water causes your eyes to become bloodshot and inflamed, bandage the eyes lightly. Try to prevent this problem by wearing sunglasses or goggles with a sunglass insert.

Osmotic Diarrhea

May develop following swallowing of large amounts of salt water.


This condition is a common problem associated with dehydration. For constipation, do not take a laxative if it is available; this causes further dehydration. Drink freshwater, if available

Heat exhaustion

Dehydrated survivors in a hot, humid environment are at risk. Prevention is good hydration.


The sun’s rays reflect at all angles off the waves of the water; therefore, sunburn and dehydration are serious problems in sea survival. Try to prevent sunburn by:

  • Erecting an improvised canopy, with available floating materials, to provide shade.
  • Wearing your soft cover or using a cloth, such as a handkerchief, to cover your head.
  • Covering your skin with sunscreen or lip balm from your first aid kit. Your lips, nostrils, eyelids, the backs of your ears, and the skin under your chin sunburns easily.
  • If enough sunscreen cream is available, all exposed skin should be covered.


Dehydration is caused by the loss of the body’s vital fluids. Dehydration in saltwater may result from a combination of factors such as a lack of water, the effects of saltwater on skin tissue, sunburn or vomiting from seasickness and other causes. Sleep and rest and reduced water and food intake are the best ways of enduring periods of exposure. The following measures will delay the effects of dehydration:

  • DO NOT drink saltwater.
  • DO NOT drink urine.
  • DO NOT drink alcohol.
  • DO NOT smoke.
  • DO NOT EAT unless water is available.

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