Sinus Pain, Sewing-Machine Leg, and Distance Travel

I’m a fairly zen flyer, someone who rarely has issues when spending hours in a pressurized cylinder 6-miles above the planet, other than intense boredom and the odd outbreak of sewing-machine leg. But yesterday, on landing in San Diego after a cross-country flight, I felt as if someone with shards of sharp glass had climbed into my head and was pressing non-stop from behind into the area between my left eye and eyebrow. Ow! Ow! Owwwwwww! Have never had it happen before, and would never want to have it happen again. It was awful

The culprit? My current cold, apparently. As this discussion at FlyerTalk makes clear, despite never having had a problem before when flying with myriad colds and the like, I’m far from alone in one day being attacked by in-eye gremlins on the descent.

Note to self: No more flights with sinus pain.


  1. Paul you are clearly to young or don’t fly enough if this is the first time. welcome to the club

  2. Hey Lesa
    Sadly, I fly too much and have only wish I was too young :-)
    Despite twenty years of regular flying — i.e., usually a few times a month, which has turned into more than a thousand flights over the period — I can say that other than the odd plugged ear, I have never had anything like what happened yesterday.

  3. I always feel like something is about to pop. It seems terribly unhealthy. As someone who suffers from sinus congestion quite frequently, can I just say, “Welcome!” This is a club you didn’t want to join.
    For some reason I am always more afflicted when landing in Vancouver than other airports. I’ve hypothesized that the surrounding mountains make a steeper descent than usual necessary and that that makes the problem worse.
    Regardless, may I suggest that the next time you fly with plugged sinuses, you pack yourself a large supply of decongestants. They make a big difference.

  4. I highly recommend Afrin decongestant spray for this particular situation- a few hits before you get on the plane, and (if necessary) another hit or two before the plane starts to descend, and the odds of this happening are greatly reduced.

  5. Good old Eucalyptus oil will help clear sinuses and helps with headaches.
    In the UK, we have a brand called “Oil of Olbas” which is helpful; you can put a couple drops on a tissue and deep-breathe on it. I am sure in Silicon Valley, one or more Indian stores will stock “Roll-On” or “Sensur”, both of which have a ballpoint-pen-like roller ball with which you can dispense it on your temples and sides of the nose. Much more effective than Olbas.
    I routinely bring these from India for friends in the UK so I am sure an Indian friend can bring one or more for you too. :-)
    PS: Sinusitis is temporary is it not? Imagine getting migraine due to frequent pressure changes as the plane taxies or the wrong temperature in the cabin? Yes, someone is ALWAYS bound to be worse off…