Migraine and My New Love/Hate Relationship with Flying

Attribution: Photographs by xlibber

Like most ENFPs, I love to travel. The novelty of a new place (with its new sights, new people, new smells, and new adventures) never gets old. Yes, every big city is similar in many ways to every other big city (just as most small towns are similar in certain ways), but the differences between them – no matter how small – thrill me. I am happiest, in fact, when I have a trip scheduled for sometime in the next six months. As long as I know I am going somewhere soon, the normalcy of my everyday routine doesn’t get me down.

You can understand my disappointment, then, when I realized that I may soon have to change either the frequency at which I travel or the way in which I do it. Flying, it turns out, makes me dizzy, dizzy, dizzy. I’m talking days of dizziness. Weeks of constant vertigo. And it took me until this year to realize it.

Earlier this year, I flew to Philadelphia for a four-day trip. Though I was slightly dizzy the day we arrived, the vertigo quickly dissipated and I had a wonderful time at my conference and touring the city. Once I arrived home, however, I had the worst vertigo of my life, and it lasted for three weeks. 

Once it eased, I wrote it off as an anomaly. (As I am wont to do with most of my weird migraine symptoms.) Until, that is, I traveled to San Diego last week for another conference.

Once again, the flight there wasn’t too big of a problem. Though I almost passed out from vertigo at one point during the first day,  a two-hour lunch break in bed restored me for the rest of the trip. Arriving home, however, was an entirely different matter.

It’s been five days, and the room is still spinning. I ran into a couch on the way to the kitchen this morning, and I had to cancel a doctors appointment because I couldn’t trust myself to drive. I’ve been working primarily in bed instead of at my desk all week, and I haven’t been to the gym once.

I’m also about to leave on another trip, this time for five days to Florida.

I haven’t had two long-distance trips so close together since my vertigo worsened, and I’m truly wondering how it will go. Apparently, vertigo after flying isn’t uncommon for those of us with vestibular migraine and/or migraine associated vertigo, but I’d certainly never heard of it before. Now, all I can do is refill my Valium (which my neurologist gave me for vestibular symptoms) and hope for the best. Oh, and make a promise to myself to never again schedule back-to-back air travel, of course.




3 thoughts on “Migraine and My New Love/Hate Relationship with Flying

  1. Flight induced vestibular migraine can be prevented by taking maxalt 30 minutes prior to landing and 2 hours after. It’s changed my life. I can fly 14+ hours and walk off the plane ready to go, when before I was in bed for days. Maxalt (or its generic version) is a triptan, similar to what people who get altitude sickness take. It’s no surprise then that being on a plane that is pressurized to 8,000-12,000 feet inside the cabin, where the oxygen is low, can trigger a migraine.

  2. Hi there,

    I have been going through the same issues with vestibular migraines for around 4 years however did not know it was this until recently. Have you had any luck with preventative measures so that this doesn’t happen while flying? My symptoms usually last up to three weeks and really effects my ability to work and live my every day life. Would love to hear if you have any suggestions.

    Hope all is well!

    • I haven’t had any luck yet, but I’ve just started restricting how much I fly. I have heard of a few options to try for preventatives, and I will likely try at least one before/during my flight to Canada later this year. I’m sorry you struggle with this, too, but I’ll keep you posted in case something works for me. Maybe it will help you, too! Warm regards.

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