So I was asked to share my Barotrauma story on a health website. Pretty much the story goes. Sharing is caring – it might help someone identify their symptoms….
Around 2012 April or so I got on a flight from New York back to Lagos on Emirates Airlines – 13 hours to Dubai, 7 or so hours from there to Lagos. I was fine on the NY leg, and when i went to the lounge – I ate very well and even had 2 glasses of Baileys. Prior to this flight I worked in Dubai and lived in NY- well Homeso I did the 13 hour flight at least 4 times a year for 5 years – it was not a new flight for me in the least. I also loved flying, so nothing strange.
On the Lagos leg about 30 minutes into descent – i noticed my eye was throbbing but it was bearable…I also noticed it got more intense as the flight descended further. It became a case of unbearable pain and the only way to describe the feeling was – it was like someone flung a million needles into one of my eyes and right above it. I didn’t know when i started crying, the passenger next to me asked if I was ok and I told her my head hurts…she offered paracetamol but there was no water to take it. Once the flight landed i was in an unbelievable amount of pain and I felt exhausted like I had just ran a marathon. She alerted the flight attendants who allowed me to lay out flat on the floor- emergency row seating area while passengers disembarked. Slowly I was coming back to it- after about 10 minutes I was able to walk off the flight with almost no assistance. Exhausted but capable.
The flight arrived at night and after i relayed my experience to my folks, they asked me to go for a brain scan. Hospital said nothing looks wrong, everything looks normal. No blood vessel issues nothing. If you ask me I thought my brain was exploding during those 30 minutes. My dad being a pharmacist started to narrow down the entire experience. My mom being a nutritionist & dietician started asking about what i ate etc – as far as she is concerned all problems tie into food.
After enough back and forth- i concluded it was the alcohol and long flight. I switched carriers to Delta for my next trip – 12 hours direct from Lagos to Atlanta and 2 hours or so to NY from there. I hit the jackpot on that flight- I drank only water and Juice going – flight was uneventful round trip. I concluded I had to divorce Emirates and Marry Delta (pardon my sense of humor). I came back to Lagos feeling victorious.
About August 2012, i had to fly to Abuja for work and I noticed upon descent, milder symptoms of the Emirates flight incidence it was a 5 on a scale of 10. I got worried…on the return leg i was fine. I began to think I was imagining stuff. For about 6 months i got symptoms ona scale lower than 5 over 10, so i figuredit wasn’t soo bad. By 2013 i became afraid to fly….
I decided to google exactly what i was going through and bam – it was some sort of trauma. I began asking doctors and then spoke at length with my cousin who is a doctor. She came back with barotrauma. I begged her for a prescription and she started laughing. She was like “sisi there is no cure, your sinus is just showing you who is boss”! She said the best that may work for me was antihistamines, but even that isn’t guaranteed. She pretty much told me what other doctors didn’t- that it was an issue with my sinus and it reacting to the pressure from the flight descent and to monitor whether or not I have a cold when I fly. She gave me the diagnosis of barotrauma and told me to read up on it very well.
As you guessed i tried antihistamines and it didn’t work for me, mater of fact it escalated to like an 8 out of 10. So i gave up on that. I decided to read up on how others dealt with it. Some people said chew gum- that works sometimes, some people say take sleeping meds – worked once or at least i slept through that landing. Some people have said eleveate ur chin and lean backwards- sometimes that seems to work…but what do I know?
I have learnt to deal with it and take shorter flights by using connections. I try to get ample rest and make sure I don’t have a cold whenever I am to travel. I also have learnt to quantify my pain on a scale of 10. I also take my time getting off flights – really slowly and I try my best to minimise my flights.