Fishing and Dizziness
by Brie Weisman, Occupational Therapist. Also published by Commercial Fisheries News July 2022
People might assume that commercial fishermen working on moving vessels cannot possibly be prone to dizziness; however, fishermen can suffer from dizziness just like anyone, and working at a taxing job on waves in the hot sun will only exacerbate the problem. Aside from the sheer discomfort of it, fishermen dealing with dizziness are hindered in their work, and can put themselves and their crewmates at risk. Fortunately, it can be eliminated in some cases, reduced in many, and steps can be taken to address it when it is unavoidable.
Dizziness can be caused by many things, and affects people at all ages. It is the result of a mismatch between the sensory system, with the eyes and the ears (where the balance mechanism resides) sending the brain apparently contradictory messages. A boat can both move up and down and side to side at the same time and at varying speeds, pushing the sensorimotor system into overdrive. The result is dizziness.
Vertigo is the most common cause of dizziness. People with vertigo often complain that they seem still, while the world is spinning around them. Usually experienced after age 20, with much higher rates after age 65, due to the breakdown of the vestibular system of the inner ear. The aging process can cause the calcium deposits that are attached to the hairs in the vestibular system, leading to disequilibrium.
Other potential causes of dizziness:
- Side effects of certain medications
- Insufficient hydration
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Neck and head injuries
- Heart issues
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, especially with diabetes)
- Anxiety disorders
Treatment for dizziness while working:
- Take a break from work to address a bout of dizziness.
- Keep moving to increase circulation
- Try to remain in the open air if dizzy or vomiting
- Keep your eyes on the horizon
- Take sips of water, especially if vomiting, to avoid dehydration.
- Taking dried ginger has been shown to alleviate dizziness.
- Nibble on crackers or pretzels to help settle your stomach.
- Eat a healthy breakfast before working
- Wear sunscreen and a hat for sun protection
- Take breaks in the shade
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Quit smoking
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption
- Talk to your PCP regarding medications and treating allergies that may cause or increase dizziness.
- Wear a motion sickness wrist bracelet with acupressure nodes.
- Get enough sleep
See your PCP about dizziness, sometimes a single office visit can relieve symptoms, without the use of medication. Your PCP can conduct simple tests to determine if you have vertigo, and can refer you to a therapist. Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), the most common form of dizziness, is treatable with specific movements and exercises.
In rare situations, dizziness can be profound and disruptive enough to cause sufferers to leave work and make lifestyle changes. In the vast majority of cases, however, dizziness is either curable or manageable with modest effort. As with so many aspects of our health, the best outcome lies in our own proactive response, treatment, and management of the usually temporary condition.