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Flying - Head Pains

Travel Forums General Talk Flying - Head Pains

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1. Posted by Napoleon_U (Budding Member 34 posts) 9y

In the past when i traveled by plane everything was normal, i had the occasional ear ache but nothing too bad. However over the past 2 years when i have traveled i have been struck down with chronic head pain.

It is usually behind one of my eyes and it is extremely intense pain. It usually happens on the descent so i'm assuming it's pressure related. I tend to sit there with my head in my lap in agony wishing it would end. My eyes usually go somewhat bloodshocked as a result of the pain. The pain dies down after i land, but can take anywhere from 1 day - 1 month to clear completely.

On my last trip i tried using some caplets that open up the airwaves so oxygen/bloody could flow freely in my head, but it didn't help.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this

2. Posted by arif_kool (Travel Guru 1757 posts) 9y

Well i too experienced head ache and pain in ear but it usually subsides within 1-2 hrs of descent.
Just get ur blood pressure checked up.maybe u have elevated level of blood pressure.


3. Posted by Napoleon_U (Budding Member 34 posts) 9y

I will get that checked before i fly again. I don't think my bloody pressure is high though. i have always had good health generally and i eat reasonably healthy, exercise etc.

I'll get a check up though.

4. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 9y

Apparently, taking some Aspirin before or during a long flight can help. Aspirin thins the blood.

I've suffered from something similar just twice. Once I had a bad headcold and I think one of my ears might have been affected. The other was with sinus trouble just recently. I know the agony of it and it's horrible while it lasts.

5. Posted by Napoleon_U (Budding Member 34 posts) 9y

I'll make sure i load up on aspirin on my next trip. The 1st couple of times i had a cold too and it was bad, but it still happens, so i'm not 100% sure if the cold affected me, although i used to think it was the cause.

The thing is i flew 24hrs to Australia no problem at all. N.Y and back no problem at all so it doesn't happen all the time. When it does happen though it is only at descent.

ill load up on aspirin next time.

6. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 9y

Another cause of severe headaches during flight and/or during ascent/descent is increased CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the aircraft cabin. This is especially true when a plane is filled to capacity. It can also be caused by mild to moderate dehydration.

Other possibilities are, as the others have stated, increased blood pressure, colds, allergies (affecting the sinuses and causing swelling of the passages), contact lenses (similar to a mask squeeze when diving), dry cabin air, jet lag, alcohol consumption (from the night before or just prior to boarding the plane - alcohol causes dehydration) and partial clearing of the ears (they clear enough not to cause pain behind the ear drum but cause in increase in pressure in the upper sinuses, right behind the eyes).

7. Posted by arif_kool (Travel Guru 1757 posts) 9y

wow....i think Isodara beautifully sums up all the possible causes of headache during flights...I think this is sufficient to satisfy Napolean's queries


8. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 9y

Quoting Napoleon_U

When it does happen though it is only at descent.

While in flight, does the dry recirculated air cause a mild "runny" nose? If so, and you are blowing your nose frequently, then my guess is the headache is probably caused by swollen irritated sinus membranes. My nose starts to "drip" about 15 minutes into every flight forcing me to blow my nose very frequently. I feel fortunate if I disembark without a severe sinus headache. I've also suffered severe ear squeezes because the swollen sinus passages wouldn't allow me to clear my ears adequately on ascent and/or descent. That was a miserable pain which took hours to subside.

I've also had migraine-strength headaches from plane travel because my blood pressure was elevated. The increase in pressure was caused by the oral contraceptives I was taking for a different medical problem. Once I returned home and had my pressure checked, it was exceptionally high and the OCs were discontinued. I don't think that's your problem, but it could be a cause for women who are taking OCs and experiencing headaches while flying. Flying, like diving, can mildly increase one's blood pressure because of being in a pressurized environment also.


Quoting arif_kool

wow....i think Isodara beautifully sums up all the possible causes of headache during flights...I think this is sufficient to satisfy Napolean's queries


Thank you, Arif! ;)

9. Posted by redknight5 (Full Member 80 posts) 9y

Hi Napoleon U.....I've had the same thing on flights for a few years now. At first I was worried by it. Happens on descent, and as you say sometimes the pain has still been felt 2 weeks later. I went to my doctor and he said it was sinus linked and there's nothing i can do about it, i must just have a weak sinus point. I get the same thing scuba diving too. It doesn't happen every time and can happen whether Ive got a cold or not. The unpredictability is soooooooo frustrating!! Anyway as far as i can tell theres nothing you can do about it but its nothing to worry about. Just have to get thru the sure not gonna stop flying round the world!! Hope this helps


10. Posted by Isadora (Travel Guru 13926 posts) 9y

Chris' (redknight5) response caused me to think of something else too. Have you ever broken your nose?

Mine was broken 3 times during adolescence which caused a 90% and 95% blockage of the nasal passages. I ended up having minor surgery to widen the passages so I could do my scuba training. (It was also the cause of multiple sinus infections prior to the out-patient surgery).