Headaches Can Be a Pain In
by Charlie Spence,
a little headache. I'll be fine.' Have you ever said this as
you did a preflight of the airplane before a flight? If you
do not have a history of headaches, that's probably true, but
medical experts say some headaches can seriously impair your
Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), in its medical publications,
warns that some headaches can materially affect decision-making.
Sometimes they reduce the ability to properly read instruments;
sometimes a headache can produce scotoma (a dimming of vision
or blind spot), making it difficult to determine height above
the ground resulting in landing problems; sometimes double vision
can be present. These major problems usually relate to migraine
or cluster headaches. However, even a mild headache can detract
a pilot's attention from flight duties.
150 diagnostic headache categories have been established, ranging
from simple aches to migraines or clusters. Tension headaches
are the most common among adults and adolescents. They cause
moderate pain and come and go. Migraines produce a more severe
pain and can last from several hours to several days. In its
report on headaches, the Cleveland Clinic says the exact causes
of migraines are unknown but are related to blood vessel contractions.
They can be brought on by many factors. Some can be from inherited
are the most common and come and go. They usually can be eased
or relieved by over-the-counter medications. These can be brought
on by emotional stress associated with family, work, school,
or friends; skipping meals, unusual sleep patterns; alcohol,
or even such mundane things as poor posture.
two types of tension-type headaches, according to the National
Headache Foundation: episodic and chronic. Symptoms for both
types are similar. They may include muscles between the head
and neck contracting; a tightening sensation around the neck
or head, or pain primarily in the forehead, temples, or back
of the head or neck. For this type of headache, over-the-counter
drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or something similar can be
effective. If the symptoms persist, one should seek a proper
the World Health Organization says, can last from two hours
to three days. About a fourth of the persons who have migraines
experience more than one a week; others may have them no more
than one a year.
The most painful
and debilitating are cluster headaches, which are the least
common of all, according to the Cleveland Clinic. The pain is
frequently so severe that the patient cannot sit or stand still
but will pace during the attack. They may occur one to three
times a day during the cluster period. These periods may last
for a couple of weeks to several months and then the headaches
will go into remission, only to be repeated at a later date.
Safety Foundation reports that the Federal Aviation Administration's
Guide For Medical Examiners says that pain from migraines can
be 'acutely incapacitating' and can preclude issuances of a
signs that should cause a person to consult a medical professional.
The Flight Safety Foundations lists among these: headaches occurring
three or more times a week; pain-relief medication taken daily
or longer than recommended; if pain worsens or changes character;
if they occur after strenuous physical activity, coughing, sexual
activity, head injury; or changes such as slurred speech, numbness,
dizziness, or other unusual changes.
to treat yourself with over-the-counter medications can bring
on worse headaches if these medications are not taken correctly.
Over use or not properly following a doctor's instructions can
bring on a 'rebound' headache. This leads to a desire to take
even more medication, creating a cycle producing more pain.
to the National Headache Foundation more than 45 million Americans
suffer from chronic, recurring headaches. About 28 million Americans
suffer from migraines.
the airplane it's smart to preflight yourself.
The information contained herein
is meant for informational purposes only. Neither IFA nor Charles
Spence assume any responsibility or liability for events that
occur due to actions you or others on your behalf take based
on the information given in this article. You are proceeding
at your own risk. It is strongly advised that you seek the opinion
and advice of a qualified aviation medical examiner and appropriate
medical physician for any medical needs you may have.