Post-flight hell

Hey guys,

Forgive me if there are any typos in this message as I am dictating it on my phone to avoid looking at the screen. I almost didn’t want to post here because so many of you have been supportive of me when I needed it about getting on a plane recently – and I have also traveled by plane before without much of a problem so I don’t want to scare anyone out of traveling – but the result of this most recent trip has been a nightmare. I just want to understand why this might be happening and whether any of you have suffered more after a plane trip and how long it took for the symptoms to go back to your base level.

Why would plane travel affect MAV? The symptoms I’m experiencing now are very different than my normal dizziness – when I’m walking it’s as if I’m experiencing the shifts in altitude that you feel while you’re on a plane sometimes. I’ve never had this in all the time that I’ve been ill so it is definitely something new and related to the trip. Almost more like MDDS type symptoms? But I know that others of you who have responded to medications and are therefore more sure of your migraine diagnosis have also had a hard time after a long flight that required adjusting to time changes as well. Please, if you can offer any assurance or thoughts about how to manage these post flight symptoms it would mean the world to me… As you all know, there’s no one in the medical field that I can really reach out to for help when I’m feeling worse.


Hi Adri,

I flew last week and was surprised that I actually felt ok when I got home. I think it’s partially due to the fact that my father was visiting and I kept really busy. When I flew a few weeks ago, it was a whole different story. I felt pretty great my whole vacation but the day after I returned, I was a train wreck. My MAV symptoms were back at full force. They got better after a couple days, but I really never got rid of the list bit of dizziness. So I saw my dr a couple of days ago and he increased my current medication. So…I’m really hoping it will go away.

I think flying can be a trigger, but I think it’s probably a combination of changes in sleep schedule and maybe what you eat while being away. Also flying and change of schedule can make you fatigued and i know when im tired, my symptoms increase My doctor who is a neuro-otologist doesn’t think flying will increase symptoms.

I hope your symptoms are getting better. I just think our bodies handle change differently and a MAV brain is extra sensitive to any change.

Yeah, that does sound more like MDDS. :-/ I think Dr Cha has her patients take low dose Valium or Klonipin before travel and maybe during the flight itself if it is a long flight…

Ugh, that is disheartening to hear because even less is known about mdds… but as I said, I have flown with my “usual” dizziness before this trip and never experienced what I am now. These symptoms are different. I’ll be walking and suddenly in my head feel a shift, like I’m walking over unsteady ground. Anyone else experience that?

I always fly “Air Xanax” (very low dose), and it keeps me calm. However, after joining this board, I’ve learned so much and realize that I do suffer some balance issues after flying, even on relatively short flights (3-4 hours). I used to think it was the “humidity” or fatigue, but this last flight resulted in me feeling really off for almost 2 weeks. It stinks. I may try those ear plugs next trip–so many people claim it helps clogged ears. I haven’t taken decongestants either, so maybe I should add that to my list when packing next time around. :slight_smile:

Hi there,

Migraine, MAV included is definitely triggered by flying in some people. It is a very well known migraine trigger. I have struggled with flying since I got this condition. It is my biggest trigger. The problem is the change in air pressure, it’s the same reason that people have migraines which are triggered by storms. I can also get symptoms when there is a storm coming. Whether a flight affects mY have much to do with whether your trigger load is high due to other things when you fly, and also sleep disturbance due to time zone changes etc need to be factored in. Disruption in sleep pattern is a big trigger too, so both combined can cause big problems. I have such problems flying that even in optimum conditions, namely well rested and no other particular triggers, I can still get ill. That said I tend to be ok on the way there, it’s the way back that gets me. I think this is due to exposure to sun on holiday (another trigger for me) and changes in sleep patterns over the holiday or because of the flight.

I flew back from somewhere a week ago. I got lucky this time in that I experienced hellish symptoms the night I got back and over the next 2 days, now I am just struggling a bit but nothing like previous times I have flown. I have been in a terrible way after other trips. I wouldn’t yet get bogged down with the MDDS idea. The chances are the flight has just brought on some scary new symptoms, MAV can change over time. If you were doing ok before the flight, then chances are it will calm down. I’m not going to lie, this might take a while. I have been sick for a few weeks after a flight before now. I’m not saying this to depress you, but rather to encourage you as even if it takes a while to go, it will calm down eventually.

Try not to panic, that will just make it worse. I would just tell yourself that the flight has thrown you badly, but it will pass.


Forgot to say, one thing I never, ever fly without is earplanes, which help your ears with the changes in air pressure. I think these have made a definite difference for me where nothing else has.


Thanks Hannah, that makes me feel a little more at ease. Gotta give it some time.

I did use the earplanes but I notices that I still felt some pressure changes in my ear probably because I didn’t blow out my nose enough before I put them in so I’m not sure they worked correctly

Dear Adrir

Reading your account sounds like my own story. I have suffered with this on three seperate occasions all involving a flight. I saw a Neuro-oto who has diagnosed me with Chronic subjective dizziness although he said this was not a definitive diagnosis personally now i suspect MAV. I suffer with the rocking for 6-8 weeks it gradually builds up and then slowly subsides. This last bout has been since November now I just feel off sometimes it is worse if I am stressed, tired, hungry ect. My best advice would be to rest as your body needs it, don't be too hard on yourself and accept you have to go through this every day is a day closer to recovery. Just remember whatever we are suffering from ,stress and anxiety feed it more. Take care of yourself.


Every time I go abroad same thing happens. Migraine develops mid week and continues a week after I get back. Also, I have had two full blown vertigo attacks whilst abroad, one happened the day before I was due to fly home and I still dont know how I made it back, I had been bedridden for 12 hours with the room spinning and the morning of the flight I was packing my suitcase with my head kept straight. The vertigo attack had followed a bad migraine.

I was talking to a young girl whom I had just met, and she happend to say that this happend to her Mother, like clockwork, every time she went abroad, she didnt suffer from MAV, just plain migraine, but midweek the migraine would start and it would continue for a week after she got home.


I flew in February from Chicago to Florida and back while taking ativan and was fine. However, I flew from Chicago to Nebraska and back June1-3 and have been REALLY dizzy since (took ativan then also). I e-mailed my dizzy doc. and he said it could take several weeks for symptoms to subside. ugh.

How are you feeling adrir? I re-read your post more carefully, and you did say you’ve flown before during dizziness “flare-ups” but did NOT experience what you’re experiencing now. That would make MDDS less suspicious, I would think. As someone else pointed out, MAV is much much more common anyway. True, changes in altitude/pressure, stress, not enough sleep, diet, or any other recent lifestyle changes can prolong or worsen MAV flareups. Did you have a cold or any sinus congestion at the time of the flight? Last time I flew (across the USA), i had a cold, didn’t wear ear protection, was sitting near the back (::smacks forehead::), and not only did i have horrible motion intolerance and vertigo during the flight, but after coming back home, i felt yucky for a fewdays.
@Sasad, did you take the same dose of ativan both times you flew? Also, how often do you take ativan in general? Since ativan is a shorter-acting benzo, it is faster for the body to develop a tolerance, so i just wonder if that is why you didn’t respond well to it this time??

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@Sasad, did you take the same dose of ativan both times you flew? Also, how often do you take ativan in general? Since ativan is a shorter-acting benzo, it is faster for the body to develop a tolerance, so i just wonder if that is why you didn’t respond well to it this time??

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I did take the same amount both times. I started taking it the day before in both cases and took .5mg every 4 hours the day of and before. The flight to and from Nebraska was SUPER bumby and the plane was really small. That could be the difference for me.


ooooh okay…yeah i think the smaller and more turbulent the plane ride, the likelier it is to kick off these symptoms. That’s probably why you felt worse this time.

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How are you feeling adrir? I re-read your post more carefully, and you did say you’ve flown before during dizziness “flare-ups” but did NOT experience what you’re experiencing now. That would make MDDS less suspicious, I would think. As someone else pointed out, MAV is much much more common anyway

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I think I am just about back to my baseline level of crappy now. Still having some random, residual pressure-change feelings in my head, but not anything like the first few days after flying. Of course, I still feel unwell, but it’s an unwell I’m more familiar with.

Honestly, I don’t know why the idea of calling it mdds or something else entirely is so scary to me when nothing has really “stuck” while i’ve been calling it MAV. I guess others here have expressed that they are afraid of an mdds diagnosis because even less is known about it then migraine. But none of us have typical migraine – so even if a med does eventually work, it’s rarely an easy path. I guess it’s just the idea that there’s more possible treatment options. I’ve doubted the mav diagnosis because I don’t have migraine history, and this first came on after a flu shot and then a ski trip. I think the flu shot triggered something inside me – maybe something mav-like – that made me ultrasensitive to the altitude changes and motion that the skiing required. Does that mean it’s mdds? I don’t know.

Maybe I was just in a worst off place when I flew this last time than the others, and like other migraneurs the time changes and altitude affected me. It’s so difficult to differentiate the two conditions that I really believe there’s some kind of spectrum of these dizzy conditions and maybe I’m in some grey area.