The Mystery of “Airplane Headache”
Our sinuses are temperamental structures. At their best, they clean, warm and scrub the air we breathe, and help to equalize the pressure inside our skulls. At their worst, they do the precise opposite of all these things, blazing a trail of misery and sorrow through our lives.
Case in point: the recently documented phenomenon of “airplane headache,” which has been characterized as an acute stabbing pain that tends to occur during landing. Scientists recently conducted a survey of those who suffer from this symptom, and many believe that our sinuses play a starring role.
In some people, their sinuses may have difficulty equalizing the increase in barometric pressure that occurs when a plane is landing and this may cause pain, suggests Mainardi, a neurologist at SS Giovanni e Paolo Hospital in Venice, Italy.
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.
Also worth noting is that many of the people who reported this headache are more prone to headaches generally, suggesting a common pathway or etiology behind headaches in a broader sense.
So what can you do to avoid “airplane headache”? Swallow often when flying, take OTC medications to reduce inflammation and congestion, and go see a Los Angeles sinus specialist if your brain cries “mayday” every time you’re going down.