Airplane headache! Yep, it’s real. It’s also know as “high altitude headache”. But it doesn’t matter how you call it, it’s hurtful anyways.
I didn’t experience it but my boyfried did on our last trip to France. What was it like? A sharp pain in the sinuses, so strong it was scary as hell. So he felt it on our second flight landing in Paris from Munich.
It lasted for a good 3-4 hours. We never knew what was it until we read about it when we got back home a week after. My boyfriend felt the same sharp pain on our way back to Sofia, on the second flight again, when landing. It lasted less then.
So what have we learnt about airplane headache?
We are not experts but according to our own web research, High Altitude Headache occurs more often during landing. It develops within 24 hours after ascent and resolves within eight hours of descent.
It covers at least two of the following charasteristics: Bilaterial, Frontal or frontotemporal (at the front of the head in the region of the temples), Dull or pressing quality, Mild or moderate intensity, Aggravated by exertion, movement, straining, coughing, or bending.
Some info says that the symptoms rarely last more than one hour. The pain has been described as jabbing, stabbing, shooting, bursting, pressing, piercing and sharp in quality. As for why airplane headaches occur, scientists think it’s due to an imbalance between the air pressure in the cabin and those in the frontal sinuses.
The exact cause of airplane headaches remain unclear, but it’s likely due to several factors such as the shape of the sinuses, as well as the speed of the aircraft, cabin pressure, and even the maximum altitude reached.
How to prevent airplane headache
We read a lot about it and the most common ways to prevent airplane headache are:
- Stay hydrated before, during and after your flight;
- Chew gum – this would help while the cabin pressure is changing;
- Avoid alcohol (especially wine) and caffeine – these two can trigger the headache;
- Take sinus medications – some spray, nasal cream should help before the flight.
So have you ever experienced an airplane headache? What was it like the first time you had it?
Update (January 2018): Since that time we never experienced airplane headache again. Our flight routine now includes chewing gum as fast as possible on take off and landing, and staying hydrated during the flight. We noticed that a pain occurs when we have a mild cold so it better be treated before flying.