/ preparation

Sailing Safely

As the weather warms, it’s a beautiful time to get out on the water. But the wet, slippery deck, exposed conditions, and repetitive and strenuous tasks can all increase your risk of an accident or medical emergency while sailing. Since you’ll likely be remote from medical care, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the most common injuries and illnesses that occur while sailing:

Strains, sprains, and repetitive stress injuries

The physical labor of sailing, performed on a rocking and potentially slippery surface, is a setup for slips and falls and muscle strains.


Even experienced sailors can experience motion sickness in rough conditions.


Direct sun and reflected UV rays off the water are a setup for sunburn.

Cold or heat-related illness

The harsh, direct sun and physical labor involved with sailing can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Cold, windy, wet conditions could also cause hypothermia.

Eye irritation

Sun exposure, wind, and saltwater can lead to UV damage, eye irritation, and pinkeye.

Swimmer’s ear

Sea spray and wind can lead to otitis externa or “swimmer’s ear”

Prepare to prevent injury and illness:

  1. Maintain your physical fitness in between trips and focus on good lifting technique, stability, and balance.
  2. Use good form when lifting and proper ergonomics for repetitive motions.
  3. Bring proper footwear for slippery deck conditions.
  4. Prepare for extreme weather: Pack clothing that provides UV protection and protective layers for cold and wet conditions.
  5. Bring a supply of all prescription medications and frequently-used over-the-counter medications.
  6. Anticipate that chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, and psychiatric conditions could become worse due to the changes in environment and talk to your primary care provider about any preventative or as-needed medications.

First-aid kit suggestions:

  1. Water-resistant sunscreen
  2. Sunglasses with UV protection- look for options that provide coverage to the sides as well to protect from wind and UV reflection off the water
  3. Water/wind blocking ear plugs if prone to outer ear infections (swimmer’s ear)
  4. Hydrocortisone cream for skin irritations and rashes
  5. Aquafor or similar emollient cream for abrasions, pressure burns, and raw/irritated skin.
  6. 100% aloe vera gel for sunburn
  7. Antihistamines for skin irritations, sunburn, rash, and motion sickness
  8. Hot and cold packs for minor injuries and for heat/cold related illness
  9. Emergency blanket and extra dry, warm clothing layers
  10. Topical muscle creams, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, lidocaine patches for strains and pulled muscles
  11. Bandages, ace bandages, gauze, and other wound care supplies for cuts, scrapes, and sprains.

Prescription Medication Recommendations:

  1. Scopolamine patches to prevent motion sickness
  2. Ondansetron (Zofran) to be used as needed for nausea and vomiting.
  3. Antibiotics specific for water-contaminated wounds: ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin, doxycycline and/or ceftazidime
  4. Cyclobenzaprine- a muscle relaxer for severe strains/sprains and cramps
  5. Diclofenac anti-inflammatory gel for strains/muscle spasms
  6. Antibiotic eye ointment for eye abrasions, irritation, or pinkeye
  7. Antibiotic and steroid ear drops for outer ear infections

Duration Health physicians can help you prepare for your trip with a supply of prescription and over-the-counter medications specific for your travel plans and health history. Connect at Durationhealth.com to build your kit!