Long Flight = Migraine

Old Apr 14th, 2009, 10:48 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 8
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Long Flight = Migraine

I'm not sure if this is the correct forum or exactly how to explain, so please bear with me. My husband is not afraid to fly...he's fine on a 4 hour or less flight. One time, 9 years ago, we flew from Michigan to Portland OR...which was about 5 1/2 hours. He got so SICK...vomiting and the worst headache he's ever had. It happened on the way there and back. So, he hasn't been on a long flight since. Now...this summer, I'm going to Germany to visit my daughter and grandsons...my daughter would really love for my husband to come too, but he is afraid of getting so sick again.

Does anyone have any ideas how to get him on a 9 hour flight?

Any information would be greatly appreciated!

MarieLL is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 10:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 8
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I dated a guy like this. He used to take "prophylactic" medication for migraines -- I guess you can head them off if you know the trigger events (his were movies).
Harlemite is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 11:05 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 26
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I have a lot of problems with migraines and since childhood, would get migraines every time I flew. Over the years, I have discovered that if I take dramamine and benadryl before the flight, I have a 90+ percent chance of being fine. In my mind, I have come up with the theory that somehow the motion sickness triggers my migraine. Also, I find that the dry air in the plane can worsen my allergies, triggering a migraine - hence the benadryl. I recently flew 17 hrs without any problems. Also, I tend to try to get seats by the wings and drink a lot of water. Don't know if it will hlep him, but worth a try.
drms is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 12:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 23,138
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Is it possible it is something as simple as caffeine withdrawel? My mother kept blaming me on giving her a headache whenever we traveled together until we realized that at home she drinks almost a full pot of coffee each day - and when we traveled she had a cup at the airport and that was it. Once I started buying her more coffee when we traveled, we still got annoyed with each other, but no headache.
gail is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 01:17 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,073
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Or perhaps don't go on a 9-hour flight?

Reykjavík (KEF) to Boston on Icelandair is about 5.5 hours. Dublin to Boston is about 6.5. Outbound flights are even shorter.
rkkwan is offline  
Old Apr 14th, 2009, 06:57 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,823
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
caffeine withdrawal is a possibility - as is dehydration. I know if I get dehydrated, I get a horrible migraine.
Grcxx3 is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2009, 05:55 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 1,669
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
air pressure changes can give some folks big troubles as well - don't know what to recommend to help.
Momliz is offline  
Old Apr 16th, 2009, 08:38 PM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 4,024
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Could he talk to his doctor about this? It would be a shame for him to miss out on such a nice family trip.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2009, 08:11 AM
Join Date: Feb 2009
Posts: 20,661
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would see a neurologist and get Imitrex prescription. Once he feels a migraine coming, one pill aborts the attack. Plus all the above advices about coffee, dehydration...
Dayenu is offline  
Old Apr 22nd, 2009, 03:39 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 636
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
This might be a dumb question, but it's not clear from your post whether your husband has been diagnosed as suffering from migraines. It's also unclear whether he gets headaches (or migraines) from time to time, and just got a really bad headache/migraine on the long trip - or whether the headache he got on that long flight is the only bad headache he's ever had. If he is a migraine sufferer, then as others have suggested, he should talk to his doctor about migraine triggers and whether there might be something he can take at the onset of symptoms to prevent/lessen the severity of a migraine. There have been some significant improvements in migraine treatment in the last few years, and so if he hasn't updated his medication recently, it could be worth exploring.

If, on the other hand, he hasn't been diagnosed as a migraine sufferer and this is the only really bad headache he's ever had, then it's highly unlikely that what happened on that flight was a migraine. It could have been a one-off event, but there might be some other reason for the problem. Again, it's worth talking to his doctor about the experience.
frogoutofwater is offline  
Old Apr 24th, 2009, 09:53 PM
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 2,121
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
There are a lot of things that can trigger migraines. I've had them from long airline trips that involved multiple stops (although my migraines are quite mild), but not from individual flights or long non-stops.

The main environmental changes on an aircraft are changes in air pressure and changes in humidity. The air aboard an aircraft is mostly fresh with some heavily filtered recirculation, so contaminants are unlikely to be a factor. Sitting in one place for a long time might do it. Dehydration might do it (humidity is often very low aboard airliners). Sometimes motion sickness can trigger migraines or can produce similar symptoms, if the aircraft moves a lot in turbulence and/or a person is particularly sensitive to the motion (motion sickness is rare in air travel, with only about 0.1% of passengers experiencing it).

There's also the possibility that it was not a migraine. A severe headache and vomiting are also signs of altitude sickness. The vast majority of people don't experience this at the very modest cabin altitudes of airliners (no greater than 8000 feet cabin altitude, which is equivalent to sitting in Telluride, Colorado), but there are a few who are unusually sensitive to altitude, especially if they have cardiovascular or respiratory issues, or are smokers.

If he has no history of severe headaches and he is over 40, a neurological work-up and scan might be in order, as the headache could have been something very different from just a migraine.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Old Apr 29th, 2009, 04:38 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 2,927
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
It could also be motion sickness, which can make one feel as you have described your husband. I've gotten it a few times flying and you feel like you want to die. Benadryl 25mg. pre-flight works wonders.

He should still discuss the symptoms by his doctor though.
Jaya is offline  
Old Feb 25th, 2012, 03:05 PM
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 1
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Oh my this is me EXACTLY. I NEVER had a migraine in my life until I started flying long distances. First my stomach would turn when smelling the airplane food which I never eat, than the headaches followed by the stomach ache and than the vomiting. The stewards would always give me fizzy water and anti-nausea pills to no avail. Than a doc gave me a very expensive anti nausea med (scipt only) and that did not work one bit. I will try the Benadril. It got so bad I thought they would have to carry me out on a stretcher...amd mo it is not caffeine related. I only have one small cup per day...this past year I landed in Germany and the vomiting continued for one hour after I landed. I got cold and sweaty at the same time...when i finally got on my connector flight i was so tired and dehydrated I slept the entire flight...another 2 hours. Insane!! The only time I get sick is on long distant flights!
Slege is offline  
Old Feb 25th, 2012, 04:57 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,073
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I would go see a doctor. If it's not caffeine withdrawal and not motion sickness, then most likely it's a symptom of the brain not getting enough oxygen due to the lower pressure. This could mean something more serious than just migraine on a plane.
rkkwan is offline  
Old Feb 26th, 2012, 04:08 AM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 12,268
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Migraine triggers ...


See a good Neurologist get a preventive odds are great he will be just fine.
qwovadis is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2012, 06:20 AM
Join Date: Feb 2012
Posts: 7
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Definitely see your doctor, don't rely on advace on a public forum, how well meant they are. Unless of course the advice is to see your doctor
koen is offline  
Old Feb 28th, 2012, 08:34 AM
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 11,752
Likes: 0
Received 17 Likes on 4 Posts
Why did sledge bring up a 3 year old thread to complain about a migraine? One fact that the airlines don't want you to know is that you are at least 50% more likely to die of a pulmonary embolism within 48 hours after getting off a long flight.
tomfuller is online now  
Old Feb 28th, 2012, 09:03 AM
Join Date: Oct 2004
Posts: 2,767
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
A friend from work just had a bad experience flying home from Nicaragua to Portland. She developed the worst headache ever in the center of her forehead. She was crying and moaning and she is not someone I would expect to see doing that. Someone gave her a couple valium (bless that person's soul) and another young man asked her if he could lay his hands on her and pray (which she let him do, she was so desperate).

She went to the doctor when she got back because she was sure she had a brain tumor and the doc rx'd her antibiotics for a non-symptomatic sinus infection.

Moral of the story is to talk to your doc first, then be prepared with an anti-anxiety agent (valium, xanax), sudafed (decongestant to keep sinus passages open), benedryl (antihistamime, keep allergens at bay and the beneficial drowsiness), ibuprofen or a prescription pain med. And hydrate for the couple days before you fly. Dope the guy up and pour him on the plane. Definitely send him to a doctor first so I don't get beat up for suggesting this pharmaceutical cocktail.
pdx is offline  
Old Jul 5th, 2019, 06:02 PM
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 13
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Iíve flown all around Europe from the UK and on long-haul flights to the USA, S.Africa and Asia.

i also get migraines which I inherited from my mother and my triggers are alcohol (I like it but it doesnít like me) for which I have a low tolerance and altitude - particularly when flying. I have experienced severe headaches when skiing and on long haul flights I avoid alcohol (after one incident when I had a tiny sip of champagne after being upgraded to first class), always hydrate and eat in moderation.

Like the OP, Iím OK on short haul but long flights over about 5 hrs lead to severe headaches and nausea with a dry metallic taste in my mouth and this has been getting worse over the years (Iím now 61).

Now I live in Australia, practically any trip involves a long haul flight. After doing some research, I tried Ibuprofen which had limited results but on my latest trip from London to Singapore (12hrs), 5 hrs into the flight I woke after a nap with all the usual symptoms.

So I took Imitrex and within 30-45 minutes the symptoms started to subside and after an hour and for the rest of the flight I was fine.

Iíve another 8hr flight to Sydney tomorrow and plan to take Imitrex as the plane takes off, as research has shown it can be taken as a prophylactic to prevent migraines occurring.

My symptoms are not air pressure related (Iím a scuba diver and never had a problem) and are definitely related to long exposure to altitude.

They also have nothing to do with anxiety (I like flying), blocked sinuses, allergies or lack of painkillers (Iíve tried them all).

Last edited by Pewit; Jul 5th, 2019 at 06:07 PM.
Pewit is offline  
Old Jul 7th, 2019, 12:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 6,079
Received 42 Likes on 2 Posts
I know this is an old post but I'm prone to headaches not necessarily migraines. I had the worst one going home Venice, Italy to Newark, NJ. I thought I was going to be sick as it just continued to get worse as the flight went. I couldn't take any medication for fear the swallowing of pills would make me sick as when I tried, I gagged.

I think what happened was I already started with a headache prior to the flight on top of not eating a good meal. Since then, I always get a decent meal right before boarding and taking headache medication to be sure it doesn't happen again.

I also wipe anything I may touch in my area with antibacterial wipes. It seems to help me not get sick after the flight. I can't say for certain but something I've just noticed. I was just so glad on that flight there was no loud noises like a crying baby as it would have made my headache worse. I wouldn't wish that type of headache on anyone.
sassy27 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Manage Preferences - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Your Privacy Choices -