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Airplane Headaches

Many people experience airplane headaches while travelingThe hassle of air travel these days is bad enough, but that stress is independent of what appears to be a newly recognized type of headache - a severe one that comes on when the plane is landing. Airplane headaches were first reported in medical literature in 2004 and more cases have been noted since then. They’re characterized by severe pain on one side of the head and near the eye that develops during landings and in most cases lasts less than 30 minutes. Italian researchers recently reported on 75 new cases in the journal Cephalalgia published online April 5, 2012 and maintained that airplane headaches should be considered a new subtype of headache. The designation would allow the headaches to be studied more directly than they have been so far. Responses to questionnaires from people who say they’ve had these headaches indicate that the pain does not occur on all flights. The researchers noted that based on these reports, a traveler would need to have experienced at least two attacks for the pain to be classified an airplane headache. And the one-sided pain should be the only symptom - no nausea, or sensitivity to noise or light (these are symptoms of a migraine).

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Reader Comments (5)

I thought it's called Aerosinusitis.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDidi

Yes! I have been getting these for several years now. Thought it was my sinuses, which have their own issues. They are so painful that I have to cease conversation and rub it...feel like the sinus is going to burst. And they are also pretty brief. Only during landing.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Polk

I thought this was just my sinuses acting up! Even when it's not allergy season I get a "fireworks" feeling on both sides of my head when the plane is landing. I try to prevent it by taking a Benedryl about half way through my flight. But most times I still have the sensation of electrical activity or fireworks being let off in my head. It's a very painful sensation and all I can do is scrunch my face and rub my temples and head. I never get headaches otherwise, so this is a very unusual sensation.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi N

My experience has been, when the plane is at the jetway after landing and the outside air is pumped into the cabin, The diesel smell comes in and gives me a horrific headache, I do not experience this with all airlines, I have not been able to attend a carnival for years either.....

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBeth K

I have been experiencing these headaches for the past 12 years. They don't occur on all flights, but probably 30-50% of the time. When they do occur, it is always over my right eye and is over when we land. It is an extremely intense pain though and the 5-10 minutes that it lasts for feels like an eternity. After landing, I usually experience a dull pain for the next few hours. When I take Cold and Sinus medicine about an hour before landing, I am less likely to get the headache. When I do get it, I find some relief with blowing my nose as hard as I can, and I continue doing it until landing. Though it doesn’t stop it, it at least makes it tolerable.

September 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRob C

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