Sinus Headache While In-flight?

Let’s be honest, juggling between missed connections, body scans, securing overhead cabin space, and dealing with annoying passengers at the airport is enough to make your head pound.  If that was not bad enough, some people who have a history of sinus headaches suffer intolerably during take-off or landing.   Although this type of a headache only lasts about 30 minutes, it is enough of a – pain – for some people to hang up their flying shoes.


Why do some people, like my buddy from Rogers Tow Truck, get an insufferable migraine while inflight and other people do not?  It is actually unclear why some people get “flying headaches” and others do not, but researchers have their suspicions.  One cause may be caused by an imbalance between the frontal sinuses cavities and the cabin pressure.  Other factors included the speed of the aircraft, the altitude of the plane, a lack of sleep, or holding your neck in an awkward position that creates strain.  Additionally, men in their 30s tend to struggle with “flying headaches” more than women.

If you suffer from sinus related migraines when flying, there are remedies you can follow to make flying a little more comfort:

  1. Book a Non-stop Flight

Since in-flight sinus headaches are thought to be related to changes in altitude so avoiding layovers may help.  Staying in the air at a consistent altitude until you arrive at your destination will keep cabin pressure steady.

  1. Stay Hydrated

Drink a lot of water before, during, and after your flight to stay hydrated.  Although drinking water will not affect your sinuses, it will prevent your headache from worsening due to dehydration.  Additionally, it is a good idea to stay away from, or at least limit, your consumption of alcohol and caffeine.

  1. Pop Your Ears

Chewing gum, sucking on hard candy, drinking water, or eating are ways you can “pop” your ears while in-flight.  Popping your ears helps to relieve pressure build-up in your sinus cavities while the cabin pressure normalizes during take-off and landing.  If none of those options are available to you, you can always fake a big yawn.

  1. Medication

If you have a history of sinusitis or migraines, you may want to take a dose of your medication 30 minutes before boarding your plane.  It is important to give your body adequate time to digest the medication before take-off for it to be effective.  Taking medication one to two hours prior to your flight is ideal for maximum comfort.  Of course, you should always consult your physician before taking any new medication.

  1. Get Enough Rest

Many people struggle to sleep while on an airplane.  For some the plane is uncomfortable or the flight is too short to adequately rest.  Getting enough sleep the day before your flight may reduce tension in your neck and shoulders, which may contribute to a headache.

Let’s face it, air travel has made the world smaller allowing people to see parts of our planet that otherwise could not be experienced.  Getting on an airplane does not have to be a painful or anxiety-provoking experience, especially those prone to get “flying headache.”  Follow these five suggestions to avoid headaches and arrive at your destination pain-free.

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