“Bella, it’s your turn.”

Bella rose excitedly. She had just learned to skip yesterday but this was already level two stuff.

Today’s exercise required circling a stool while skipping. The stool held her prize; a small bowl of ice cream.

She took the rope and started as strongly as possible. Skipping and circling for a minute, then five, then ten and nearly fifteen minutes before losing her breath. She had beaten everyone.

Her siblings cheered as she fell back to catch her breath. But her breathing wasn’t the only thing amiss at that moment.

She was seeing double. She felt like she was still skipping when she was in fact, now sitting. And she felt dizzy.

But almost naturally, almost involuntarily, she shut her eyes, let her brain rest and allowed her chest beat freely against her rib cage.

The effect was positive. A few seconds later, everything was back to normal. And Bella was ready to take her ice cream.

You may not like to skip, but you’ve probably experienced a condition like this before. Maybe it was in an amusement park, in an airplane or a car.

The condition is what experts now generally refer to as “motion sickness” or more specifically; seasickness, carsickness, airsickness, etc., depending on the situation.

Seasickness is the type of motion illness that afflicts travelers or workers on the sea.

What is seasickness in oil and gas?

Seasickness is a condition that happens to you when the on-sea vessel or platform that you’re in vibrates and moves against the raging sea.

This forces your body to try maintaining its balance against the rocking ship movements amid the 24/7 work activity. And as experts long discovered, the part of the body that deals with balance – the inner ear- might send a message to the brain that contradicts what the other senses, like the eye and the skin, perceived and sent.

This will then result in a conflict of interpretation for the brain. For example, it might struggle to tell if you’re moving or sitting. This is seasickness.

Who can become seasick?

Typically, anyone who works or travels by sea can fall victim. But studies show that some persons, by their nature or by the level of their preparedness, are likelier than others to get seasick. This includes people who are slow adaptors to new and unfamiliar movements, people with bodies that sway more, and women.

Oil and gas professionals who work at sea are also at the risk of seasickness.

Is seasickness fatal for oil and gas workers?

While there are seasicknesses that last for days and weeks, there is nothing fatal about the condition.

Seasickness can either be treated with or without the use of drugs, and it might persist for a few seconds, hours or longer.

Dr. B. Chueng, in a contribution on seasickness to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)’s lecture series titled, ‘NATO RTA “Survival at Sea for Mariners, Aviators, and Personnel Involved in Search and Rescue”, writes,

“The term “sickness” is (also) a misnomer as it carries a connotation of ‘(affected with) disease’. It obscures the fact that motion sickness or seasickness is a normal physiological response of a healthy individual without organic or functional disorder when exposed to the unfamiliar or conflicting motion of sufficient severity for a sufficient period of time. Hence, seasickness and other associated forms of motion sickness (airsickness, carsickness, simulator sickness, and space sickness) can now be defined as a maladaptive response to a real and apparent motion.”

In other words, a seasick person can also be a very healthy person.

How do I know that I’m seasick?

While milder kinds of seasickness usually come with the symptoms of tiredness, balance disorder and dizziness, the more persistent versions have the symptoms of cold sweating, nausea, vomiting, headaches, and stomach ache.

In any doubt, you can always consult the medical personnel on your oil rig.

What are the effects of seasickness?

Falling seasick on an oil rig can affect you, your coworkers and your company’s productivity in a negative way.

Assuming that you’re ambitious and eager to rise through the ranks quickly by working hard, seasickness can be a major distraction.

Dr. B. Chueng notes that seasickness can erode the victim’s ability to work effectively and to participate in group activities while increasing feelings of depression and misery.

Also, there are suggestions – though unscientific – that incidents of seasickness can demoralize other workers on the rig. This could affect their performance and ultimately, the company’s output.

How do I prevent or cure seasickness?

Over the years, researchers have developed several tactics for preventing and curing seasickness. The most common of these tactics include using drugs and medical help, developing a positive anti-seasickness mindset and using acupressure tools like wrist bands.

  • Seek medical help and use drugs.

Expectedly, there are drugs in existence that can help cure longer bouts of seasickness. There have been medications for seasickness before the 1900s.

A 2015 article in the CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics publication states that,

“In 1869, the first usage of medications for MS (motion sickness) was a combination of chloroform and tincture of belladonna. Nowadays, there are at least 9 different kinds of drugs used against MS.”

However, despite the increase in medicinal options, there are considerable side effects on drug use.

Of this, Dr. B. Chueng says, “…None of the drugs of proven efficacy in the treatment of motion sickness are entirely specific and all have side effects… The three relatively effective and commonly used drugs (promethazine, dimenhydrinate, and scopolamine) are central depressants that can affect brain activities and cause drowsiness or sleepiness and dizziness. They should not be taken by those in whom an impairment of skilled performance could jeopardize safety.”

Boma Femi Julius, the CEO and founder of Globat Oil and Gas Skills, had a hilarious experience with seasickness medications in his earlier offshore days,  “I once took a seasickness drug on a six-hour boat ride to a rig in Gabon. I slept off and passed my location. When I woke up, I was hours away from my rig.”

That’s why it is advisable to seek medical expertise before taking drugs to prevent or treat seasickness. Luckily, oil and gas drilling explorations always include medical workers who can provide assistance and expertise in this direction.

  • Use Acupressure.

Acupressure, defined as the application of pressure on specific points on the body to control symptoms such as pain or nausea, has long received considerable attention and endorsement as an effective treatment in several studies on seasickness.

For instance, Frederick Bonato, Andrea Bubka and Wesley W. O. Krueger, in their study on motion sickness published in a 2015 volume of the Military Medicine Journal write,

“A common nonpharmaceutical attempt for treating MS (Motion Sickness) entails bracelet-like devices worn around the wrist. It is claimed that stimulation of pressure points such as P6 acts on the central nervous system to provide MS relief. Elastic versions simply employ pressure but more sophisticated devices provide electrical pulses.”

  • Develop a positive mindset.

But what does mindset have to do with falling ill?

Well, legendary self-help author Dale Carnegie already had the answer in his 1948 bestseller How to stop worrying and start living,  in which he wrote that, “Worry can make even the most stolid (calm and dependable) person ill… Worry can put you into a wheelchair with rheumatism and arthritis… Worry can even cause tooth decay.”

And he wasn’t just rambling. Today, medical experts and scientific studies – such as that of Dov Eden and Yaakov Zuv on the impact of self-belief on seasickness among naval cadets – agree that your mindset can determine if you will become seasick or not.

It is now advisable for both travelers and oil and gas workers to believe that they won’t have seasickness. This can build a resistance against the condition.

Did you find this article useful? Kindly share it with your friends and colleagues and follow our blog to learn more about working in the Nigerian oil and gas sector.

References

  1. Carnegie, D. How to stop worrying and start living. Simon and Schuster. 1948.
  2. Chueng, B. Seasickness: Guidelines for All Operators of Marine Vessels, Marine Helicopters and Offshore Oil Installations. Survival at Sea for Mariners, Aviators and Search and Rescue Personnel (RTO-AG-HFM-152). NATO Research and Technology Organisation. 2008; 178.
  3. Eden, D., & Zuk, Y. Seasickness as a self-fulfilling prophecy: Raising self-efficacy to boost performance at sea. Journal of Applied Psychology. 1995; 80(5), 628-635.
  4. Bonato, F., Bubka, A., & Krueger, W. A Wearable Device Providing a Visual Fixation Point for the Alleviation of Motion Sickness Symptoms. Military Medicine. 2015; 180(12), 1268-1272.
  5. Zhang, L., Wang, J., Qi, R., Pan, L., Li, M. & Cai, Y. Motion Sickness: Current Knowledge and Recent Advance. CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics. 2015; 22 (1).

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