Did you get a headache
the last time you flew commercially?
No, we're not talking about the security lines... or the furious
grab for overhead space for your oversized carry-on... or the
screaming toddler kicking the seat behind you. We're talking about
real headaches here, that can include sudden, severe pain.. even
nausea, like a migraine.
Well, you're not alone... as Reuters reports that Drs. M. S.
Berilgen and B. Müngen, of Firat University in Elazig, Turkey
believe headaches like these could be caused by a phenomena called
barotrauma... a sudden, and painful, change in air pressure.
Of course, airliners are pressurized... but the cabins aren't
kept at the same pressure as the place you took off from.
Typically, the standard airliner cabin is pressurized to the
equivalent of about 8,000 feet -- and as the plane climbs, the
pressure is gradually reduced relative to what it was on the
The process reverses as the plane descends for landing... and
while most people feel no ill effects from the gradual change in
pressure, for some the process is not gradual enough.
Previously, doctors thought the severe headaches that many
passengers complain of after flying were caused by being at a
higher altitude... or from a pre-existing condition.
Instead, it could be the pressure change itself... and the only
solution could be for the airliners to climb or descend to
different altitudes more slowly, allowing more time for the air
pressure inside the cabin to change.
Given the added costs in fuel and time associated with a slower
climb to altitude, however... that is likely not an option the
airlines will be wanting to explore.