How to Fly With Ear Problems

How to Fly With Ear Problems
With a cold, sinus infection or allergies, air travel can be a painful experience. Air pressure changes on take-off and landing can exacerbate the pain or the "clogged" feeling you have in your ears when your Eustachian tube is blocked. According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, this phenomenon is usually worse on landing--going from lower pressure in the air to higher pressure on the ground--but can occur with any rapid change in air pressure, such as with riding in an elevator, scuba diving, or even diving to the bottom of your pool. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize your discomfort when flying with ear problems.

Instructions

Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Hard candies Gum Ear plugs Nasal decongestant Pain reliever Bottle or pacifier
  • Hard candies
  • Gum
  • Ear plugs
  • Nasal decongestant
  • Pain reliever
  • Bottle or pacifier
Step 1
Take a pain reliever like ibuprofen or acetaminophen 30 minutes prior to take-off and landing if you know you suffer from ear pain while flying. Many travelers also use decongestant nasal sprays or pills an hour or so prior. These will shrink the swollen membranes in your ear, allowing the Eustachian tube to open and equalize pressure.
Step 2
Perform the Valsalva maneuver. Pinch your nose closed, take a breath through your mouth, and gently try to blow the air out through your nose. You may have to do this several times before you hear a pop indicating the air pressure on either side of your eardrum has equalized.
Step 3
Yawn or swallow to engage the muscles that open the Eustachian tube. But don't sleep on take-off or landing because you likely will not swallow often enough to keep up with air pressure changes. Sucking (not chewing) on hard candies promotes swallowing, as do chewing gum and drinking plenty of water.
Step 4
Wear earplugs while flying. The brand EarPlanes is made specifically to reduce ear discomfort during air travel. The earplug contains a patented pressure regulator that slows down rapid air pressure changes. However, business traveler and former airline executive David Grossman states any earplug that prevents air from getting in the ears will have the same effect. The trick is to put them in before you take off and don't take them out until after you land.
Step 5
Use a bottle or pacifier for babies and children younger than three, who cannot yawn on command, cannot suck on hard candies or chew gum, and cannot do the Valsalva. The action of sucking on a bottle or pacifier (breast-feeding, too) will help balance the air pressure in the ears.

Tips & Warnings

 
The American Academy of Otolaryngology advises you consult your physician before taking decongestant pills or nasal sprays if you have "heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, thyroid disease, or excessive nervousness." Pregnant women should also talk to their doctors before using these products. Use care with nasal sprays, as only a few days of regular use will cause rebound congestion.
 
The American Academy of Otolaryngology advises you consult your physician before taking decongestant pills or nasal sprays if you have "heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, thyroid disease, or excessive nervousness." Pregnant women should also talk to their doctors before using these products. Use care with nasal sprays, as only a few days of regular use will cause rebound congestion.

Article Written By Kira Jaines

Based in Arizona, Kira Jaines writes health/fitness and travel articles, volunteers with Learning Ally and travels throughout the Southwest. She has more than 16 years of experience in transcribing and editing medical reports. Jaines holds a Bachelor of Arts in telecommunications and journalism from Northern Arizona University.

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