January 3, 2009 8:36 AM   Subscribe

I fell and chipped a tooth, and have a huge bump on the back of my head. Is there any reason I shouldn't fly 13 hours tomorrow?

You are not my doctor - in fact, this isn't anything bad enough to go to a doctor, and if I wasn't doing a transatlantic flight tomorrow, I wouldn't even worry about it, but I broke my arm a few months back and took a flight from Paris to Frankfurt for the surgery. My doctor said he'd pulled out a giant hematoma when he was putting me back together, and implied that flying with a badly broken arm was stupid (although the Parisian doctor told me I could fly that short of a distance no problem).

So, internet, any reason I should move my trip due to the giant lump on my head?
posted by monkey!knife!fight! to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
Best answer: Falling and hitting your head can cause all sorts of damage -- concussion, etc -- some symtpoms of which can take days to show up. If I were you, I'd go to the hospital now. I fell and hit my head two years ago and went to the emergency room. They did an MRI, etc. and let me go home. The doctor said that I should be diligent for two weeks -- and if any symptons, such as headaches, nausea, dizzyiness developed, no matter how light or severe, I should get to an emergency room pronto.
posted by ericb at 8:51 AM on January 3, 2009

IANAD, but when a similar incident happened to my father a little while ago (fell and hit his head, required a few stitches, did not lose consciousness) he was instructed to cancel his 4 hour flight the next day.

Head trauma is not something to mess with. And if you have a history of blood clotting, it would seem a no-brainer to not fly tomorrow.
posted by meerkatty at 8:52 AM on January 3, 2009

If you have health coverage (not sure what country you're in currently), you could always go to the ER and ask the experts. You can always mention to the hospital staff that you don't think it's that serious, but you need to know if you're okay to fly tomorrow and since it's the weekend, you can't see your/a regular doctor.
posted by fructose at 9:31 AM on January 3, 2009

My friend's husband fell on the stairs and hit is head on a Saturday. By Monday he was in the emergency room for his concussion symptoms. You probably should get yourself checked out before you take such a long flight.
posted by gudrun at 9:36 AM on January 3, 2009

The changes in pressure alone can wreak havoc on your blood vessels (have you ever had a sinus infection and flown on a plane? It's not fun, and your blood vessels can burst) which makes me think the flight is not the best idea-- what if there's a damaged blood vessel in your brain which could burst because of the pressure from the bump and the altitude? Seriously. No joke. At LEAST call your doctor.
posted by big open mouth at 10:38 AM on January 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks, all. I called my doctor and she said that as long as I'm not exhibiting any "brain trauma" symptoms - blurred vision, vomiting, etc - that I should be OK to fly. I'll keep an eye on it, and if I feel "off" at all, I'll head into an ER, and move my flight.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 10:55 AM on January 3, 2009

I think it's very iffy.

To expand a bit on big open mouth's excellent point, cabin air pressure is nominally maintained at the atmospheric pressure you would experience at 5000 to 8000 feet. In practice, this could mean (in a worst case scenario-- I didn't find detailed descriptions of typical pressure maintenance regimens in flight) pressure falling as the airplane rises from (assuming) sea level to 8000 ft, then being repressurized to 5000 ft (at a maximum rate of 4000 feet per minute, apparently), then slowly declining to the 8000 ft. level as air pressure falls from leaks, then being repressurized to 5000, etc. Potentially, in pressure terms, in other words, a 13 hour ride on a very slow roller coaster with a 3000 ft. drop.

Not so good for a person with a history of hematoma and a very recent head injury, I'd say.

As an independent, highly anecdotal line of evidence that subjecting people to the ("squishes and pops of acute") pressure drops of air travel may possibly have heath consequences, consider the cases of Amy Goodman, Ralph Nader, and ambassador Joe Wilson. Each of them developed their cases of Bell's palsy soon after stepping off airplanes, I would argue because the rapid increase of pressure involved in landing caused their brains to effectively shrink from the expanded state induced by the lowered pressure of flight, causing the 7th cranial nerve to be pulled relatively abruptly through its tight bone channel, damaging it and giving rise to Bell's palsy.
posted by jamjam at 11:58 AM on January 3, 2009

Best answer: I'd strongly recommend you move or cancel your flight. Diagnosing this over the phone is difficult. You need to SEE a doctor, in person, and be evaluated. IANAD.
posted by arimathea at 12:11 PM on January 3, 2009

Response by poster: Argh. Ok, new plan since you all make very convincing arguments, and I've not gotten one "oh hells yeah, you're fine I do that all the time". I'm going to see how I feel when I wake up tomorrow morning and if I feel at all unsure, I'll move the flight back a week and go see my doctor on Monday.
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 2:08 PM on January 3, 2009

Response by poster: So...I canceled my flight after taking a shower and feeling kind of sick when I bent my head down to rinse the shampoo out. I went to my chiro on Monday, because I couldn't get in to see my doctor, who brought me next door to a doctor in the building they work with. They gave me a CAT scan, and then told me to have a good flight after getting the results.

My chiro gave me an adjustment, which helped a lot. I flew back to Kiev on Tuesday, and got my tooth fixed here (for 27 dollars US) and it looks good as new.

My head is still a tiny bit tender in the spot where I hit the ice, but the other spot, where I re-hit it after I bounced (yes, I hit it that hard) is just fine now. Thanks for all your advice and all your answers!
posted by monkey!knife!fight! at 12:14 AM on February 5, 2009

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