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The End of Airplane Headaches May Be in Sight

Kathleen Ramas is one of the many Digital Editorial Interns for SheKnows. She is a communications student at Fordham University and the Editor-in-Chief of FLASH Magazine, Fordham’s fashion magazine. She’s a proud musician, Game of Throne...

We're one step closer to treating airplane-induced headaches

With spring break just around the corner and warm weather on the way, everyone’s making plans to travel to new places and to relax with family and friends. And like most travel plans, some of these will include flying. But sometimes, flying can be a real headache — pun intended.

Two of the biggest issues that people — 1 in 12 people, to be exact — can face during flights are sinus pressure and headaches, and there never seems to be a way to get around it. But luckily, that’s about to change.

At Aalborg University in Denmark, a master’s student in medicine with industrial specialization named Sebastian Bao Dinh Bui is working hard to crack the case of flight headaches. A major player in the phenomenon is cabin pressure, which fluctuates greatly during takeoff and landing, according to Bui, which “may cause tissue damage and inflammation in the sinuses. This releases the substance PGE2, which can make the blood vessels in the brain expand and thus cause head pain.”

More: 6 Types of Headaches You Had No Idea Existed

With the rising and landing of the plane during travel, followed by rapid changes in pressure each time, PGE2 can also combine with the stress hormone known as cortisol. There are many cases of people experiencing severe anxiety or stress during flights, and that’s a condition that definitely creates the perfect bodily environment for ailments like headaches and migraines. With elevated stress levels and blood vessels contracting and expanding at will, the cycle continues with each flight and it makes the experience uncomfortable and unpleasant every time.

More: 3 Myths About Airline Travel You Shouldn't Buy Into

But now that researchers have been able to narrow down the cause of said headaches, they’re able to start searching for a cure to end this uncomfortable inconvenience. According to the students involved with this research, the migraine medication Triptans was administered to some subjects, who experienced successful results since the medicine helps to prevent blood vessels in the brain from expanding, which is a major cause of the head pressure that some people feel.

With continued testing and a step in the right direction, Bui projects that new answers and results should come about before the end of the year, with his major project beginning this spring at Aalborg Airport.

More: 5 Common Headaches and Their Causes

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