The Migraine Girl’s Tips for Air Travel, Part II: In the Air

The Migraine Girl’s Tips for Air Travel, Part II: In the Air

While sitting at the Albuquerque Airport, I thought about all the tools--virtual and real--I use to take care of my health while traveling via airplane. Part I includes a bunch of tips that will aid you and your migraine brain as you prepare to take off. Here in part two, I share some things that work best for me once I'm actually on the plane. 

Blocking out noises

Invest in some noise-cancelling headphones.

I love mine, even though they sometimes hurt the top of my head where the super-cushioned band is. They also aggravate my ears a little bit, particularly if I’m wearing earrings. But their benefits are great, especially if you’re in a seat near a very unhappy baby and/or the jet engines. They don’t block out all sound (so don’t get your hopes up), but they do dull it. They don’t help much when it comes to loud beeps and shrieks, but steady, droning sound and other noises are indeed dampened.

Counteracting smells

Bring an essential oil that has a smell you like.

It’s beyond my scope of understanding, but for some reason it seems like people wear three times as much perfume or cologne as usual when they are getting on a plane. It is one of the biggest travel hazards for us migraineurs. To counteract the smell, I dab the tiniest bit of diluted peppermint oil to my outer nostrils. (Essential oils are very strong and should be diluted if possible. Always check with your doctor before putting an undiluted essential oil directly on your skin, and avoid applying directly to mucous membranes.)

Bonus: want to be a good neighbor? Ask your seat mate if the smell of the oil bothers them at all before applying it to your skin. We of all people should be thoughtful when it comes to others' sensitivities, right?

Protecting your eyes

Don’t be afraid to wear sunglasses and/or a hat inside the plane (or the terminal!).

Airports are often very bright with harsh fluorescent lighting—same goes with planes that are taking off after dark. If wearing your Theraspecs or sunglasses makes your brain feel calm, go for it. A comfortable hat with a brim also helps protect your eyes from both artificial and natural bright light. (Please remember that you’ll be asked to remove your hat and sunglasses temporarily when showing your ID at check-in, bag drop, and in the security line.)

Remembering your migraine medication

Take your migraine meds before you board.

This tip should only be obeyed if you have discussed this with your doctor. Some migraine/headache specialists recommend that those of us whose migraines are triggered by flying (changes in altitude/pressure) should take a triptan before the plane takes off in order to get ahead of the likely migraine attack. I sometimes can help myself decrease the chance of an attack by taking a couple of ibuprofen.

Deep breaths and walking around

Do some deep breathing or mindfulness meditation.

For people who feel extra stress when traveling—including airplane travel—taking some deep, calming breaths throughout the day can be immensely helpful. Before and during takeoff, breathing in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth while your eyes are closed can lower your cortisol levels and help quell anxiety.

Get up and move around.

If you’re on a long flight, help your brain and your body by getting up and walking up and down the aisle. Once the flight attendants are serving food and drink and have passed your section, you can find a good spot back in their area by the restrooms where you have room to stretch, do some simple neck stretches, and breathe deeply. (The tip to breathe deeply should be taken lightly if you’re hanging out near the lavatory.)

Unplugging from technology

Enjoy your time in transit.

Rather than buying in-flight internet, I use plane trips as a great excuse to unplug. Stuck in a tiny seat for one or twelve hours? This is the perfect time to crack open a book, write an old-fashioned letter, doodle, play silly word games, watch a bad in-flight movie, or snooze. Simply unplugging from technology and constant updates will help any brain at all—especially our sensitive ones.

What tips do you want to share with your fellow migraineurs? Please post below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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