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Ow! My Stomach Hurts!

Ow! My Stomach Hurts!

Jun 10, 2015


As Published on Boating Times Long Island.


Boating is a great way to escape from our everyday schedules, relax, and enjoy ourselves. Yet sometimes things happen out on the water that quickly bring us back to reality — and possibly back to shore. One of the most common and potentially troubling reality checks is gastrointestinal issues.

Just being on a boat may cause discomfort for some. Dr. Robin Baradarian, Director at Brooklyn Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Associates, Greater New York Endoscopy and Surgical Center, suggests that as some first timers are not as calm as more experienced boaters, it’s not unusual for motion sickness (aka seasickness) to occur.

The signs of seasickness may be nausea, dizziness, vomiting, sweating, and malaise, but not usually bring intense pain. Other symptoms can be headache, a mild unease, and yawning. Dr. Baradarian cautions that untreated motion sickness can cause gut distress and dehydration, a serious condition. While drinking water is good, he doesn’t advocate sports drinks. Instead, he recommends boaters drink coconut water for hydration.

Dr. Baradarian also praises an ancient Greek remedy that he says can be as powerful as intravenous fluid for someone suffering from dehydration. Combine four cups of water and one-half cup of rice and boil for 30 minutes, then remove the rice and bring the liquid along in case someone needs emergency replenishment. If traveling with the younger set, the doctor also counsels parents to bring Pedialyte along, as they may not fancy the rice water.

ow 3Boaters with chronic gastrointestinal diseases including ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, and inflammatory bowel disease, should bring all medications aboard (plus extra in case of delays), and take all necessary physician-recommended precautions. Pre-existing conditions require further preparation — Dr. Baradarian says he gives out his cell number to his patients for emergencies only, but if you don’t have that, bring along information about your medical condition and a list of medications. Call for help the moment you are concerned; the key to recovery is not to wait, he cautions.

Don’t overindulge while on the boat and you’ll reduce the likelihood of discomfort, pain, or worse. Dr. Baradarian points out that excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to an acute attack of pancreatitis, which can be extremely dangerous.

How does a boater know when what he or she is experiencing constitutes an emergency? Dr. Baradarian says that pain that comes on suddenly and is high on a scale of one through 10 requires immediate attention (one or two may not normally be a big deal, he says, whereas pain approaching nine may likely signal an emergency). Spotting blood either in stool or in vomit is serious and requires heading back to shore immediately or calling for emergency assistance.

While self-diagnosing is risky, some areas of abdominal pains often relate to certain serious conditions. These pains include:

  • Right upper quadrant (just under the right lower ribs) — can be a sign of gall bladder pain or overeating.
  • Belly button — a sign of many things, including blockage.
  • Left upper quadrant (under the left lower ribs) or the epigastric area (midline abdominal area between the lower chest and upper abdomen) — possibly an ulcer.
  • Right lower quadrant of the abdomen, radiating or shooting to or near the belly button — may signify acute appendicitis.
  • Pain in the left lower quadrant of the abdomen — may be diverticulitis.

Dr. Baradarian urges boaters to stop eating and immediately start drinking fluids at the first twinge of abdominal pain. If there is intense pain, high fever, vomiting, or any signs of blood get serious and get help. Don’t try to treat yourself or delay until the end of the day. “It’s always preferable to call your physician, and head back to land,” he stresses.

While you may be feeling fine and relaxed, keep a lookout for others aboard. Remember the buddy system? If you are concerned with a fellow boater, don’t let it slide. “If you see someone else you’re boating with is in bad shape — take it on yourself to get them help,” says Dr. Baradarian.

How is yawning related to seasickness?
Dr. Robin Baradarian, Director at Brooklyn Gastroenterology & Endoscopy Associates, Greater New York Endoscopy and Surgical Center, explains one of the symptoms of seasickness discussed in the story:

There is a clear association that can be reproduced in a research setting, and is related to persistent motion. Individuals exposed to persistent motion such as being in a rocking boat or a rotating room (for research purposes), generally exhibit several signs of drowsiness, such as yawning and frequent napping.

This is theorized to occur due to persistent visually induced vestibular (inner ear balance center) stimulation, also seen when a baby is rocked to sleep. In research models, the test subjects showed a general overall decrease in cognitive, social and physical activity despite being involved in activities designed to promote excitability and awareness.

Therefore, when a person is seasick, they may exhibit many or some of the following symptoms of the sopite syndrome (yawning, apathy, drowsiness, mood changes, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and a decreased concentration and interest).

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