Flying While Migraining

Sunde White illustrates her essay about how to fly without getting a migraine


(Disclaimer: I am an artist, not a medical doctor.  This is just my personal experience.)

Out of the blue, in my mid thirties, I started to get migraines.  I have a theory that they started right after we put in some raw particle board down for our floors in our apartment and then did like 20 coats of polyurethane to make it shiny.  It looks cool, but I started to go crazy with sensations of drills and hot, firey orbs floating around my eyes and out of body experiences due to head pain.

Then my friend was like, “Plywood has formaldehyde and gives me really bad migraines.”  But the floors were in and I started my journey of migraine management.  We kept the floors because it could have just been getting older and living in a dusty, moldy ancient apartment that was causing them and I didn’t want to go through the nightmare of pulling out the floors when I wasn’t positive that’s what absolutely caused my headaches.  Anyway,  I know all the triggers now and I have a dehumidifier and air purifiers and they really help to keep them down to almost never…except when I fly.

I learned early on that if you want to definitely get a migraine that lasts for at least 36 hours then get on a plane and fly somewhere.  You know how when you fly and afterwards you open your bag and your water bottle is all crumpled up because flying suctioned all the air out of them?  Ya, that’s what my brain feels like after flying.  I started to become phobic of flying and I just felt like, please, no one invite me on an all expense paid trip to your castle in Switzerland because I will have to turn it down because the migraines are so bad.

Last month I heard about a woman that had such bad migraines that she didn’t fly her whole life and then she retired and really wanted to travel with her husband so she went to a doctor that suggested brain surgery.  He was like, “It’s totally no big deal to open up your brain and disconnect some nerves and then Frankenstein your skull back on and you’ll be ready to fly around the world in no time!”  Of course she died on the operating table which is so sad and tragic but it goes to show what migraine people are willing to do to stop them and lead a normal life.

Now that I know there is no surgical cure I am willing to do, I realized I had to find another way to solve my dilemma…and I did!!!

So one of my main migraine breakthroughs was when I complained about migraines and a doctor shrugged and said, “I’ll just write you a prescription for a migraine medicine.”  They have those????  Yes, and they have changed my life!  I’m not giving out medical advice but my doctor prescribed me Rizatriptan and it works really well for me.  But they still didn’t stop my flying migraines until I realized that it’s all about when you take the migraine pills.  Like, once a migraine is starting, it’s too late, you have to be proactive.

So here’s what I did on my flight to NYC recently and it worked!  I had no migraine when I got off the plane!  I stayed really hydrated the day before the flight and then an hour before take off I dissolved a pill in my mouth and then about an hour before landing I dissolve another one and it negates all the weird air pressure problems in your brain that cause the migraines.  Throughout the whole flight I glug water to stay hydrated which also helps but had never stopped migraines before.

That’s it!  Fly free my fellow migraine sufferers!!