There is a lot of interesting research out there regarding headaches and airplane travel. The fact is, there are probably various causes and types of headache that are brought on during flight, and there isn’t always agreement on what the cause is.
Research has been going on at Aalborg University (Denmark) to better understand and better treat these headaches.
Last year, a study of 254 passengers found that 35% had headaches during travel. However, wanting to specifically study airplane headache, they evaluated each person and found that only 8.3% had actual airplane headache as defined by The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition (beta version).
Still, that’s almost 1 in 10, with more than 1 in 3 suffering from some kind of headache!
Earlier this year, research was published in an attempt to find a cause for these headaches. An increasingly important testing method was used – testing saliva for certain chemicals.
In this case, participants were on a flight simulator. Regular saliva samples were taken. The patients with headache were found to have higher levels of cortisol and PGE2.
Now cortisol is a common indicator of stress. Were these people anxious about flying, even though it was just a simulation? Or is there another reason for the high levels?
PGE2, otherwise known as dinoprostone, may be at increased levels to fight inflammation. It could be that changes in cabin pressure may actually cause inflammation, leading to the release of PGE2.
PGE2 has been linked to migraine before, and it is leading to other possible migraine treatments. So there could be a connection here between airplane headache and migraine, leading to better treatments of both.
The next step of research is indeed to find treatments. It has been noted that triptans can help with airplane headache, so researcher Sebastian Bao Dinh Bui wants to test patients taking triptans – again using saliva samples.
To find out more: Researchers aim to cure headache during flight