Some people cannot bear the disturbance during a plane journey, and it sometimes leads to ear pain. The problem arises due to the uneven pressure exerted on either side of your eardrum while traveling by air. The blockage of the Eustachian tube usually causes ear pain during flight, but the things become worse when the pressure changes inside the middle ear – this may result in tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo (a sense of spinning), or even hearing loss. You're more likely to face these issues if you are flying with an ear infection.

Can You Fly with an Ear Infection?

It is clear that some people may face ear related problems while traveling by plane, and the chances of experiencing a problem increase when you already have an ear infection. The question is, "Can you fly with an ear infection?" Or, should you postpone your plans? There is no clear-cut answer because it usually depends on how serious your infection is.

You may want to avoid traveling by air when you have a bulging eardrum or are suffering from an acute infection. The pressure will increase a lot during takeoff and landing, which can be even more dangerous for kids with a severe infection. This may even cause the eardrum to burst.

It is also a good idea to postpone your trip if your child has developed an ear infection just before your scheduled trip. Even if it doesn't cause any rupture, it may still lead to serious ear pain during a plane journey. It is better to wait for a couple of days before taking your next flight. Some airlines may waive the rescheduling fee if you can produce a doctor's note.

The good thing is that you can fly even when an ear infection is not completely gone after 48 hours. Be sure to check for the signs of discomfort, though, to be on the safe side. If your child feels uncomfortable during the flight, you can always use an ibuprofen or acetaminophen (if he's older than 6 months).

You can take ibuprofen yourself if you're the one flying with an ear infection. It is also a good idea to drink something during your flight to inflate the Eustachian tubes – this will reduce the pressure in your ears. Just be sure to avoid drinking anything right after takeoff. Using earplugs is another way to help relieve discomfort.

How to Prevent Ear Pain When Flying: For Adults and Children

If you're dealing with an ear, cold, or respiratory infection, you will be better off cancelling your trip. However, if you're in no mood to use this option, you should use some tricks to prevent ear pain when flying. Here's a bit about what you can do:

Have Some Sweets

One simple way to limit the discomfort you feel while flying is to suck sweets. Anything like chewing, yawning, or swallowing will make the air to flow up the Eustachian tube, which will regulate pressure and alleviate discomfort.


Try the Breathing Trick

A great way to push air into your Eustachian tube is to take a deep breath and then let it out gently while keeping your mouth closed and nose pinched. If you experience your ears go "pop", it means you're doing things correctly. Start doing it just before landing and repeat it every few minutes until you land on the ground. You may also do it whenever you start feeling some discomfort in your ears.


Avoid Sleeping Just Before Landing

You may ask the air steward to wake you up when the plane is descending to land. This way, you can take steps like chewing, swallowing, or holding your breath to push air back into the middle ear.


Use Earplugs

You can buy air pressure-regulating earplugs from pharmacies or at the airport. These earplugs work amazingly well to regulate the air pressure in your ear. The best time to put these in your ear is the moment the steward closes the door of the airplane. You can keep them in your ear throughout the journey or can take them off once the plane reaches cruising height.


Take Antihistamine Tablets

If you feel pain in your ears every time you travel by air, you may consider taking the recommended dose of antihistamines at least a day before your scheduled trip.


Try Decongestant Spray

You may also consider trying a decongestant nasal spray to limit the amount of mucus you make. The right time to use a nasal spray is about an hour before the landing. Then spray again after five minutes of your first intake. Repeat it every 20 minutes until landing. Remember, it's only a short-term remedy, and it's usually a good idea to use a spray that contains xylometazoline for this purpose.


Try Decongestant Syrup

Decongestant syrup or tablets can be just as good. You can buy pseudoephedrine, a medication easily available without a prescription. Take it at least half an hour before takeoff.

These tips will go a long way in making your journey as painless as possible. However, you may need to try different tricks if you're traveling with young children who are prone to getting airplane ear. Again, it's better to avoid flying with an ear infection, but if it's important, you may consider using the following tips.


For Children

  • Encourage swallowing: The idea works great for toddlers. You can give your baby something to swallow during ascents and descents. It could be anything – a beverage or even a pacifier. For young children over the age 4, anything like drinking through a straw, chewing gum, or blowing bubbles through a straw will help.

  • Use eardrops: Using eardrops is yet another effective way to keep pain at bay. Be sure to discuss it with your child's physician and ask them to prescribe eardrops that may contain a numbing agent.

  • Avoid decongestants: Under no circumstances should you be giving your young children a dose of decongestants. It's bad for their health and may make things worse.


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