Headaches are undoubtedly one of the most debilitating and frustrating symptoms, primarily when the cause is not immediately understood. 

In particular, one type of headache – perhaps related to temple pain – affects some people during landing. This headache can be so annoying that some people stop traveling by airplane.

Why is airplane headache so common? And how to treat it?

Airplane Headaches: Not Only Upon Landing

Airplane headaches can develop at different times during a flight. Some people have migraines during take-off when the plane is gaining altitude, some at landing, or in general during descent, and some mid-flight.

The pain is intermittent. It can worsen and become more acute during air travel, leading the patient to live a critical moment.

However, it is usually the landing phase that causes problems. In fact, at this stage, more than 85% of patients complain of the symptoms.

How Does Airplane Headache Manifest Itself?

Airplane headache manifests as a severe but short-lasting headache that has at least two of these three characteristics:

  • It is unilateral, affecting the right or left side;
  • The pain is localized predominantly in the orbital and frontal regions;
  • The pain is stilted or stabbing or sometimes pulsating;
  • The pain is not associated with vomiting or disturbance to light and noise.

To diagnose the type of headache caused by the airplane, it is crucial to focus on the regression phase of the symptoms. It is then necessary to check whether the headache has improved within half an hour after take-off or the descent.

Airplane Headaches: What Are the Causes?

The pathophysiology is rather complex: The symptom is likely due to a change in barometric pressure at the level of the sinuses. Airplane headaches also affect travelers without sinus disease, which should always be ruled out with an ENT examination.

What Are the Remedies for Headaches During Landing?

If you want to avoid a headache on an airplane, you can take analgesic drugs about an hour before your flight. This way, you can reduce the intensity of the pain and, in the best case, avoid its occurrence. 

Analgesics to limit pain (headache or temple pain) can be anti-inflammatory drugs such as Naproxen or Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, and triptans.