Open Access

Cold room air inhalation to abort cluster headaches: an exploratory study

  • Martha Sue McLeod1,
  • Frank Andrasik1,
  • Russel C. Packard1 and
  • Bayard D. Miller1
The Journal of Headache and Pain20143:30100033

Published: 2 February 2014


Research has shown that inhalation of pure oxygen is effective in aborting cluster headache. This article advances the hypothesis that cooling is the critical ingredient behind the effectiveness of oxygen inhalation, rather than the oxygen concentration. To test this hypothesis, eight cluster headache participants used a device that delivered cooled room air as a means to abort headache attacks. Additionally, six of the subjects administered pure oxygen so that comparisons could be made to the air-cooling device. The proportion of cases in which subjects attained effective relief from cluster headache pain by use of the air-cooling device was significantly higher than the proportion of cases in which subjects did not attain effective relief from headache pain. There was no significant difference between the proportion of headaches relieved by oxygen and the proportion of headaches relieved by the air-cooling device. This study raises questions about the mechanisms of action of oxygen inhalation for treating cluster headache, and indicates that future clinical investigations into the use of cold room air for treating cluster headache pain are warranted.

Key words

Cluster headache Oxygen Cold room air