Turbulence vs Motion Sickness

Turbulence vs Motion Sickness

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Here is a question from one of our readers:

Is turbulence similar to being sick on a bus or car?

Turbulence on a plane can be similar to experiencing motion sickness in a car or bus, but there are key differences in how they occur and how they affect individuals. Here’s a detailed comparison:


  1. Turbulence in Planes:
    • Air Currents: Caused by irregular air movements due to weather conditions, jet streams, or obstacles on the ground.
    • Altitude Changes: Rapid altitude changes can also contribute to turbulence.
    • Clear Air Turbulence: Sudden turbulence that occurs without visible signs, often in clear skies.
  2. Motion Sickness in Cars or Buses:
    • Stop-and-Go Movement: Frequent acceleration and deceleration, especially in traffic, can cause motion sickness.
    • Sharp Turns: Taking sharp turns or winding roads can lead to discomfort.
    • Visual Mismatch: When your eyes see the inside of the vehicle as stationary but your inner ear senses movement, it can cause motion sickness.

Sensations and Symptoms

  1. Turbulence:
    • Feeling of Bumps or Drops: Passengers feel sudden jolts, bumps, or drops as the plane moves through turbulent air.
    • Physical Discomfort: Some may feel anxiety or mild physical discomfort, but not everyone experiences motion sickness.
    • Lack of Visual Cues: Unlike a car or bus, passengers can’t see the cause of the movement, which can increase anxiety.
  2. Motion Sickness:
    • Nausea: A common symptom due to the conflicting signals between the eyes and inner ear.
    • Dizziness: A spinning sensation that can lead to further nausea.
    • Sweating and Fatigue: Physical symptoms often include cold sweats and general fatigue.
    • Headaches: Some individuals experience headaches as part of motion sickness.

Management and Mitigation

  1. Turbulence:
    • Stay Seated and Buckled Up: Keep your seatbelt fastened to prevent injuries during unexpected turbulence.
    • Focus on Breathing: Deep breathing can help manage anxiety.
    • Distraction: Engage in activities like reading, watching a movie, or listening to music.
    • Medication: Anti-anxiety medication can be helpful for those who experience severe anxiety due to turbulence.
  2. Motion Sickness:
    • Look at the Horizon: Focusing on a stable point can help resolve the sensory conflict.
    • Fresh Air: Ventilation or a breeze can alleviate symptoms.
    • Medication: Over-the-counter medications like dimenhydrinate (Dramamine) can prevent or reduce symptoms.
    • Ginger: Natural remedies like ginger can help reduce nausea.
    • Positioning: Sitting in the front seat or over the wheels can reduce motion sickness in cars or buses.

While turbulence on a plane and motion sickness in a car or bus are caused by different factors, both can result in physical discomfort and anxiety. Managing these experiences involves understanding their causes and employing specific strategies to alleviate symptoms. Whether you’re navigating the skies or the roads, being prepared and knowing how to respond can make your journey more comfortable.

Travel safely by OURBUS

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