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Headache Attributed to Airplane Travel: A Review of Literature

Uncommon and/or Unusual Headaches and Syndromes (J Ailani, Section Editor)
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  1. Topical Collection on Uncommon and/or Unusual Headaches and Syndromes

Abstract

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.

Recent Findings

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.

Summary

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.

Keywords

Airplane headache Descent headache Sinus barotrauma Airplane travel 

Notes

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.

References

Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Inova Medical Group, Department of NeurologyMcLeanUSA
  2. 2.Health Quest Medical PracticeKingstonUSA

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