Dealing with illness or injury while sailing as a family
Dealing with illness or injury while sailing as a family

Navigating illness and injury while sailing as a family is a critical aspect of ensuring the safety and well-being of your loved ones. Learn how to prepare, prevent, and manage health-related challenges while at sea in our latest blog post.

Dealing with Illness or Injury While Sailing as a Family

Sailing as a family is an incredible experience that brings everyone closer together and creates unforgettable memories. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to dealing with illness or injury while on board. In this article, we will discuss how to manage family dynamics during these difficult times and provide practical advice to ensure the safety and well-being of your loved ones.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Risks

Before embarking on your sailing adventure, it’s essential to understand the risks associated with living on a boat. The marine environment can be unpredictable, and accidents can happen at any time. Common health issues that may arise while sailing include:

  • Seasickness
  • Sunburn
  • Dehydration
  • Infections
  • Injuries from slips, falls, or equipment mishaps

By being aware of these risks, you can take the necessary precautions to minimize their impact on your family’s health and safety.

Preparation and Prevention

The key to dealing with illness or injury while sailing is preparation and prevention. Here are some steps you can take to ensure your family is ready for any health-related challenges that may arise:

  1. Take a first aid course: Before setting sail, it’s a good idea for at least one family member to take a first aid course. This will provide you with the knowledge and skills needed to handle common medical emergencies on board.

  2. Get a medical check-up: Ensure that all family members have a thorough medical check-up before embarking on your sailing adventure. This will help identify any pre-existing conditions that may require special attention or medication while on board.

  3. Vaccinations: Make sure your family’s vaccinations are up to date, especially if you plan to visit foreign countries during your journey.

  4. Create a medical history document: Compile a document containing each family member’s medical history, including allergies, medications, and emergency contact information. Keep this document readily accessible on board.

  5. Develop an emergency plan: Discuss and establish an emergency plan with your family, outlining the steps to take in case of illness or injury. This should include how to contact emergency services, the location of the nearest medical facilities, and the roles and responsibilities of each family member.

First Aid Kit Essentials

A well-stocked first aid kit is a must-have for any sailing family. Here are some essential items to include in your kit:

  • Adhesive bandages (various sizes)
  • Sterile gauze pads and rolls
  • Medical tape
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Digital thermometer
  • Pain relievers (e.g., ibuprofen, acetaminophen)
  • Seasickness medication
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe vera gel (for sunburn relief)
  • Insect repellent
  • Hydrocortisone cream (for insect bites and rashes)
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Rehydration salts
  • Prescription medications (as needed)
  • Emergency blanket
  • First aid manual

Remember to regularly check and replenish your first aid kit to ensure you always have the necessary supplies on hand.

Dealing with Seasickness

Seasickness is a common issue for many sailors, especially those new to the lifestyle. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and fatigue. Here are some tips for managing seasickness:

  1. Choose the right spot on the boat: Encourage family members who are prone to seasickness to stay in the middle of the boat, where motion is minimized.

  2. Keep the horizon in sight: Focusing on the horizon can help reduce the sensation of motion and alleviate seasickness symptoms.

  3. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water can help counteract the dehydrating effects of seasickness.

  4. Eat small, frequent meals: Consuming smaller meals throughout the day can help prevent an empty stomach, which can exacerbate seasickness symptoms.

  5. Use medication: Over-the-counter or prescription medications can be effective in preventing and treating seasickness. Consult your doctor for recommendations.

Handling Minor Injuries

Minor injuries, such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises, are common occurrences on a boat. Here’s how to handle them:

  1. Clean the wound: Gently clean the affected area with soap and water or an antiseptic wipe.

  2. Apply antibiotic ointment: Apply a thin layer of antibiotic ointment to the wound to help prevent infection.

  3. Cover the wound: Use an adhesive bandage or sterile gauze to cover the wound, securing it with medical tape if necessary.

  4. Monitor for signs of infection: Keep an eye on the wound for any signs of infection, such as increased redness, swelling, or pus. If you suspect an infection, seek medical attention.

Managing Serious Illness or Injury

In the event of a serious illness or injury, it’s crucial to remain calm and follow your emergency plan. Here are some general guidelines to follow:

  1. Assess the situation: Determine the severity of the illness or injury and whether immediate medical attention is required.

  2. Administer first aid: Provide first aid as needed, based on your training and the first aid manual.

  3. Call for help: If the situation warrants it, contact emergency services or the nearest medical facility for assistance.

  4. Monitor the patient: Keep a close eye on the affected family member, noting any changes in their condition and providing ongoing care as needed.

Seeking Professional Help

In some cases, professional medical help may be necessary. Here are some situations in which you should seek professional assistance:

  • Severe or worsening symptoms
  • Signs of infection
  • Injuries that require stitches or may have resulted in broken bones
  • Persistent or severe seasickness
  • Any other health concerns that you are unsure how to handle

When seeking professional help, be prepared to provide information about the patient’s medical history, current medications, and the nature of the illness or injury.

Maintaining Emotional Well-being

Dealing with illness or injury while sailing can be emotionally challenging for the entire family. It’s essential to maintain open communication and support one another during these difficult times. Here are some tips for maintaining emotional well-being:

  1. Acknowledge feelings: Encourage family members to express their feelings and concerns openly.

  2. Offer reassurance: Provide reassurance and comfort to the affected family member, reminding them that they are not alone and that the situation is being managed.

  3. Stay positive: Focus on the positive aspects of your sailing adventure and remind your family of the incredible experiences you’ve shared together.

  4. Seek support: Reach out to fellow sailors or online communities for advice and encouragement.


Dealing with illness or injury while sailing as a family can be challenging, but with proper preparation, knowledge, and support, you can overcome these obstacles and continue to enjoy your unique and adventurous lifestyle. By following the advice outlined in this article, you can ensure the safety and well-being of your loved ones as you navigate the open seas together.