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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Neurologist (MD)
Category: Neurology
Satisfied Customers: 11946
Experience:  Neurosurgeon - Brain, spine, and peripheral nerve surgery
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Scary, sudden headache: Was on a plane (I fly often) - We

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Scary, sudden headache:
Was on a plane (I fly often) - We were on final decent, about 5 min from landing, when suddenly I felt a painful shock, like an electrical current from my right temple, and across my forehead, to just over my left eye...all just above my eyebrows . It was so bad that I jolted and grabbed my head. The guy sitting next to me became concerned because of my jumping and grabbing my head. I thought about pushing the "Flight Attendant call button" to let them know that I thought I was in trouble...but we were nearly on the ground by then.
I rubbed my fingers along the line of pain above my eyebrows and it felt almost like there was an injury (maybe pencil-thin), as though I was hit by something. But there was nothing raised or bruised, etc... There didn't seem to be any pain "in my brain" as one would have with a regular headache, but the line of pain remained with me all night and this morning its still there, though much less. Once off the plane, I walked over to the nearest bathroom to look at my eyes. There was a little redness, but nothing unusual. I took Naproxin when I got to my hotel and laid down.
This morning, the pain is still there, but not like the electrical current I suddenly felt. There is a very low grade headache, this time inside my head (again, like one would expect from a regular headache).
I drink coffee, but hadn't had a cup since that morning (about 8 hours before) and was drinking club soda. The day wasn't particularly stressful and the flight was smooth and uneventful. The only medication I'm on is: Omeprazole DR - 20mg (esphagus issue), and the occasional Viagra (which I haven't taken in a while).
49 Years old, Male, about 235 pounds at 6'0" tall.


I wonder if this "headache" was rather in fact because of the air expansion in your sinuses which can occur upon descent.

This is common in people that have congestion, or a cold, or issues with their sinuses. In your case, the frontal sinus is an area above the eye, in the forehead, and if there was difficulty in the sinuses being open (from some sort of recent cold, congestion, allergies, etc) - you can have sudden pain in the face during airplane descent.

The fact that this headache was sudden, and so specific in it's location makes me think that this is probably likely.

Sudden, severe -- all over headaches could be an issue with a bleed in the head, but then you would continue to have a severe headache, and it would be everywhere, not just in a specific location.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Just a quick question - I have to fly home tomorrow and will visit my doc about a possible sinus issue, to confirm your suspicion. Should I take a decongestant before I get on that plane to (try to) reduce the chance of this happening again? Or will that not help?

if you do feel that you have some congestion - taking the decongestant before descending in the plane is helpful, either the pill or the nasal spray. (as long as this is indeed the cause for the headaches)