Headache Attributed to Airplane Travel: A Review of Literature
Purpose of Review
Headaches due to airplane travel are rare but documented in the literature. We aim to provide a review of diagnostic criteria and treatment for this condition.
Several cases of this syndrome have been reported since it was first described in 2004. Airplane headache is classified as unilateral, stabbing, orbito-frontal pain, lasting under 30 min, and occurs during ascent or descent of a plane. Patients with this condition can develop anxiety and fear of flying given the intensity and severity of the pain. The pathophysiology of this syndrome is unknown, but theories include suspected barotrauma given changes in barometric pressure during ascent and descent. There are no randomized controlled trials regarding treatment, but case reports suggest headache prevention with pre-treatment with naproxen, decongestants, and triptans prior to air travel. Some non-pharmacological therapies reported include Valsalva maneuvers, chewing, relaxation techniques, and pressure at the pain area.
As more cases of headache attributed to airplane travel are reported, epidemiological data can be obtained to further understand the incidence and prevalence of this condition, which can lead to improved treatment options for patients.
KeywordsAirplane headache Descent headache Sinus barotrauma Airplane travel
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of Interest
Hida Nierenburg has received honoraria from Promius Pharma in the past. Katelin Jackfert declares no conflict of interest.
Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent
This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.
Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance
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