An airplane headache — a brief but intense headache during take-off or landing due to cabin pressure changes — typically comes on suddenly and only lasts about 30 minutes.

It is not a story if you have a migraine before, during or after a flight.

All kinds of travel-related things can trigger migraine. A migraine episode can last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours, meaning it can seriously derail your travel plans if you aren’t equipped with preventive and defensive tactics.

Whether you’re trying to avoid a migraine attack during your flight or need to quickly treat one, here are some tips for handling air travel when you have this condition.

The crowds, noisy fellow travelers, and the less-than-healthy airport food options could cause a migraines episode.

Knowing this may help you avoid a migraine.

1. Get plenty of sleep

It is important to get enough sleep before you travel, even if it is hard.

Try to keep it within the boundaries of your usual sleep schedule since lack of sleep is a common migraine trigger.

“If you can’t sleep at night, try to sleep before your flight.”

2. Bring water and snacks

As simple as it sounds, water is an important tool in overcoming migraine. Dehydration can be a trigger, so be sure to drink plenty of water.

Similarly, skipping meals or eating sugary or processed foods can trigger migraine. Pack an arsenal of healthy snacks with plenty of protein, whole grains, and healthy fats. This will help you avoid hitting up the airport snack bar and indulging in junk food.

Good options include:

  • There are nuts.
  • There are either oats or bars with a lot of calories.
  • There is fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • popcorn
  • Whole-grain crackers.

Be sure to avoid alcohol or excessive amounts of caffeine, too, while you’re waiting around for your flight. Both are migraine triggers.

3. Plan ahead

Stress and migraine are connected, possibly because of fluctuating serotonin levels. Make sure you plan the details of your trip out well in advance.

You should leave plenty of time to get to the airport, check your baggage, and find your terminal. Rushing around before a flight will make you more vulnerable to an episode.

4. Pack your medications

Before you fly, make sure you have enough of your preventive and rescue medication. If you need to talk to your doctor about your refill needs, you should.

Pack an emergency kit of migraine medications for your carry-on, not the luggage you’re checking. You want to be sure you have those medications with you in case you need them.

5. Be ready to respond

If you have a migraine episode while you are waiting for your flight, it is important to be proactive in treating it. If you take your rescue medication immediately, you can prevent it from getting worse.

You can rest in a quieter corner of the airport before your flight.

You have made it onto the plane without a migraine, but that is only the beginning. There are many things that can happen on the plane, like changing barometric pressure levels, bright lights, and stagnant in-cabin air. Here is how to deal with it.

6. Prepare for take-off and landing

Take-off and landing are the two most likely phases of air travel to cause head pain. This is pressure related.

The pressure inside the cabin is different from the outside. A similar contrast may be happening inside your body. The pressure inside your body is different from the pressure inside the cabin.

There is no way to prevent this. Some people find that chewing gum and using earplugs can help them avoid headaches.

7. Block out triggers

Maybe you are sitting under the air conditioning fan. Maybe your seatmate has a sandwich. The person in front of you is keeping their overhead light on.

Being on an airplane can cause sensory overload. Being prepared to counteract your biggest triggers can help prevent migraines. There are some ways to overcome common triggers.

  • Light: Bring a sleep mask or dark, wrap-around sunglasses.
  • Noise: Bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones.
  • Smells: Bring a small amount of a smell you like or one that relaxes you, like a roll-on bottle of peppermint essential oil.

Even if you do all you can, migraine is unpredictable. You may still end up with one mid-flight. What should you do?

8. Treat migraine as soon as possible

Don’t hesitate to take your rescue medication as soon as you feel the first signs of migraine mid-flight. This isn’t the time to “wait and see” if it gets worse. Treat your migraine right away.

9. Talk with the flight attendants

People with migraines feel embarrassed. It is possible to make your experience more comfortable by letting the flight attendants know that you are in the middle of an episode.

They have helped a lot of other passengers with headaches. They might be able to bring you things that will give you some comfort.

  • Ice or heat packs.
  • A blanket or pillow.
  • ginger beer.
  • extra water.

If the flight is not crowded, they may be able to move you to another seat where you can lie down and escape.

10. Settle your stomach

If you’re prone to nausea and vomiting during a migraine episode, equip yourself with an air sickness bag and focus on keeping your stomach settled. Helpful actions include:

  • sipping ginger beer.
  • Saltines are eaten.
  • sucking on candy
  • You brought any anti-nausea medication with you.

You’re almost out of the woods! But all that sensory input combined with the stress of trying to avoid a migraine episode for hours on end can trigger one after your flight.

If you get a migraine after a flight, here is how to deal with it.

11. Pause and recharge

Take some time after the flight to practice self-care for yourself. It is usually enough for you to wait long enough for your destination to be ready to greet you.

Take some deep breaths as you step off to a quiet area. If you feel anxious, call a friend or run through a simpleMindfulness routine.

12. Get some extra rest

When you reach your destination, resist the urge to unpack or move on to the next activity.

Let your body acclimatize and find a place to relax. A nap can make a difference.

Can flying cause a migraine episode?

Air travel can cause a migraine episode. You are more likely to be stressed about flying and more likely to have a migraine.

Barometric pressure is an issue that affects a flight. This can cause a headaches for anyone, especially those prone to migraines.

Do migraine attacks get worse on a plane?

The interior cabin environment of a plane can make things worse if you have a migraine attack or develop one mid-flight.

A migraine can go from moderate to severe in a matter of minutes.

Proactively treating your migraines can help you manage it.

Am I allowed to take migraine medication in my carry-on?

Yes. All prescription and over-the-counter drugs are allowed on airplanes.

The only restriction relates to liquid medications, which must follow the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule or be declared to the TSA officer for inspection as you go through the screening process.

Can I take other medications, like Dramamine or Xanax, with my migraine medication?

You should always check with your doctor about any possible interactions between your drugs and air travel.

Drug interactions can occur with common migraines.

Each combination needs to be considered by a healthcare professional.

It can be hard to get on a plane with a migraine. Air travel is rife with possible triggers for Migraine.

There are many ways to treat and prevent migraines. Prepare to avoid Triggers, have a plan of action for treating an episode, and take care of yourself before, during, and after flying.