Sailors' tricks and tips to get your land legs back

Disorienting, nauseating and overall unpleasant, land sickness (Mal de Debarquement Syndrome) is the last thing you want after returning from a pleasant cruise. The symptoms will be familiar to anyone who has spent a day ocean swimming and then felt the pull of the current hours after leaving the water.

The feeling of swaying, rocking dizziness and occasional nausea is typically felt by people who have recently returned to land after five or more days at sea. There are a number of remedies and strategies that can help ameliorate symptoms and get you back to feeling like your normal, land-dwelling self.

Remedies after a cruise

Typically, symptoms of land sickness last from a few hours to several days. Unlike sea sickness, land sickness doesn't respond to anti-nausea and motion-sickness medications, unfortunately. Instead, doctors recommend getting extra rest, taking long walks and staying hydrated.

In addition, medicines like Valium which have a sedative effect may help until the unpleasant feelings subside. Interestingly, many patients report that motion like driving or walking helps to ease the symptoms of land sickness.

Causes of land sickness

Most people feel a bit of land sickness upon returning to land after days spent at sea. In some cases, however, the condition lingers for days, weeks and even months. The official causes are not known, although a number of theories hold that the vestibular system, responsible for maintaining the body's balance, is disrupted and takes time to reorient itself.

In other theories, researchers believe that it is the brain, and not the vestibular system, that has become accustomed to the swaying, rocking motion of the sea or the ship, and reacts with confusion when the individual steps back onto land. Research has shown that middle-aged women are the most likely sufferers of the ailment.

Land sickness prevention

Some physicians assert that there really is no way to prevent land sickness after getting off a boat. However, some sailors (including many working marines) insist that vigorous exercise while on board is key to preventing land sickness. It may be wise to visit your doctor prior to your trip, and ask for prescriptions that can help with land sickness, should it occur.

Vitamin B and ginkgo biloba have also been touted as useful preventative supplements, but check with your doctor before taking them to make sure they won't interfere with any medicines you're currently taking. Generally speaking, time is the only guaranteed cure for land sickness, so give yourself a day or two of downtime before resuming your normal activities.