Space Travel Headache
Space Travel Headache has been known to occur in astronauts (cosmonauts too??) for many years. One survey of over 500 Space Shuttle Astronauts found that 69% of men and 55% of women experienced a headache during their flights.
These headaches can occur during take-off, orbital entry and even during prolonged space missions.
Serious or dangerous headache disorders do not appear to have been described in this otherwise ultra-fit group of people.
It is possible that astronauts could be exposed to excessive levels of carbon monoxide - a known cause of headache.
Even increased levels of carbon dioxide may cause headaches in space vehicles. Carbon dioxide accumulation can cause a slight rise of pressure inside the head.
In a recent survey by Dutch Physician Dr Vein, 70% of 17 astronauts experienced headache in space, but without having experienced it while on earth or on return to earth.
Most of these headaches were different from migraine or tension-type headache. The Dutch authors of the study are proposing that Space Travel Headache is recognised as a distinct disorder by the International Headache Society Classification System.
Previously astronaut's headaches were blamed on Space Motion Sickness, but all the astronauts in the Dutch Study (by Dr Vein) had their headache without other symptoms of motion sickness.
Headaches were described as explosions of pain or heaviness of the head, so were different to the throbbing sensation of migraine.
It seems likely that Space Headaches will become a recognised disorder, and a rise of intracranial pressure seems a likely mechanism of the headache.
If you find yourself in space and get a headache, what should you do?
If you are in space - you will have a team of medical people ready and waiting to give you advice - so you will not suffer this alone!
It would appear that it is common for space travellers to take painkillers for these headaches. These medicines are usually effective.
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