Feel like you’re still on the boat after diving?

(Q) Mar 11, 2010

“Hello Doc,

I got back from Mexico yesterday, was diving there for 3 days. Didn’t have any problems. After the 3 days of diving I felt like on a boat constantly and still feel like it. I have a light headache as well. Please tell me if I should go to the doctor. Is that normal? I noticed I have a high temperature as well (37.8 Celsius degrees) and feel like I have flu.”

(A) Mar 12, 2010

“Hi k–g,

The condition described could be what is called “reverse seasickness,” “land sickness” or “mal de debarquement,” although it typically takes more than just 3 days of land-based diving to trigger this unpleasant malady.

DAN has the following to say about land sickness: “And what about the reverse of sea sickness: sickness on land? It does happen. After you have finished that 10-day ‘trip of a lifetime’ aboard a liveaboard and have stepped onto solid ground, you may suddenly feel funny and maybe even sick. What happened? ‘Land sickness’ occurs when you return to dry land after becoming adapted to an environment in constant motion. Your brain has become accustomed to the new input from increased motion. Suddenly, the motion stops. The abrupt change will promptly produce the same symptoms as originally felt upon going to sea.”

Mal de debarquement, technically a more serious and longer lasting condition, is discussed here:

Mal de Debarquement, or “MDD,”

Alternatively, middle or inner ear barotruama or inner ear DCS also can manifest with a similar sensation, but typically involve other symptoms as well, such as decreased hearing, ear discomfort, vertigo or tinnitus.

Given a fever of 37.8C/100F and feelings of having the flu, my guess is that the sensation described is related to an infection of the inner ear, such as viral labyrinthitis, that results in feelings of disequilibrium.

It would be wise to consult an ENT if matters don’t improve in a day or two.



This is educational only and does not constitute or imply a doctor-patient relationship. It is not medical advice to you or any other individual, and should not be construed as such.

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4 thoughts on “Feel like you’re still on the boat after diving?”

  1. Hi there,

    I went to a P&O cruise trip with my mum for 3 days and came back yesterday, Sunday morning at 7am.
    The whole time I was feeling sea sick or sea motion, I did take the ginger tablets. But still feel sick, my head spinning, I drank plenty of water, juice, even supplements. I even got my menstralperiods. It’s ten times worst feeling. What can I do to stop this feeling sick motion.? Is there a cure? I have work the next day, in retail field, and we do a lot of moving around, picking up heavy boxes etc.
    this was my first time on a cruise ship, and never experience this before?! I feel sweaty, anxious, I do have asthma too.

    Can anyone help?

    Thank you


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  2. I drove from Va to (central) Tx, 1400+ miles/24 hrs, each way.
    I split the first drive in half, spending the night in a hotel without incident.
    On the return trip, I noticed my head was “swimming” and feeling a little off balance when getting out to refuel. I’m an RN, and tried to self diagnose as we do, and thought maybe it was orthostatic hypotension. I hydrated, took frequent breaks, but drove for 18 hrs. I kept saying, I feel fine/better when i’m driving.
    When I finally stopped for the night to sleep, as soon as I was horizontal the nausea was too. I completed the drive and have been out if the car for several hours but feel, well, yucky.
    Feels as though i’m moving while being still and my head feels congested.
    I’ve never been air/car/boat sick, but from what I know, the way i’m feeling at rest is how others may feel in motion .

    Relieved to know it’s common enough to have a name so I could gather info.

    thanks for the info,

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  3. Iused to cruise on my sailboat and loved the feelingof still feeling the rocking of th boat in the water. Sorry the experience was not pleasant for you.
    Steve Bein

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  4. For more information about Mal de Debarquement Syndrome please go to http://www.mddsfoundation.org. This condition can happen after boat, plane, train, and car travel. There are also spontaneous onset occurances that are documented.

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