Air Travel Travel Hacks

How To Avoid Airplane Ear During A Flight

Flying is already part of my wandering journey. I have flown with airplanes for over 60 times in my life and I can say that at least 40% of those flights were ear-cruciating. Before, I was totally mystified on what causes those ear pains that I had. “Is the plane too small?”, “Was it the weather outside?”, “Is the Airplane cabin pressure not enough?”, “Is it flying on daytime?” . Well eventually, none of those cause ear pain or “Airplane Ear”. But how to avoid airplane ear?

It was only a year ago when I found out that I have allergic rhinitis and it was the culprit to all my airplane ears. But how and why??? For some people, ear pressure is very manageable but for those who have allergic rhinitis, it is always a challenge.

Having allergic rhinitis means you will have clogged sinus all year round if not managed properly. Since our sinus is connected to the ears, the mucus inside our sinus cavity reaches the ears and causes ETD or Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Eustachian tubes manage the ear pressure and if they are unfit to do the job, then you might experience an airplane ear.

avoid ear pain

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So here are my personal tips on how to avoid airplane ear during air travel

1. Monitor Your Health Before You Fly

It is important to know your well-being before you fly. If you are having a bad cold, cough or flu due to infection, virus or allergy, then it is necessary to cure these conditions first prior to your flight. A visit to your ENT Doctor will be helpful as he/she can give you the necessary medicines to treat all those issues. If you don’t have time to visit a Doctor, simple over-the-counter medicine with Phenylephrine HCl and Antihistamine pill will surely help. Avoid flying if you have severe cold and clogged nose as you will definitely have a hard time to equalize the pressure in your ears during the descend. You definitely don’t want to have a ruptured eardrum and end up in the hospital.

2. Use Nasal Decongestant Spray

Since I learned about my allergic rhinitis, I never missed to bring my Sodium Chloride nasal spray (Salinase, Snif, Muconase etc.) every time I fly. I spray twice each nose 30 minutes before take-off and again 1 hour before landing. If you were able to visit your ENT Doctor before you fly, he/she might have prescribed a corticosteriod nasal spray (Nasonex, Avamys, Nasacort etc.) This one will work better if sprayed as mentioned above.



3. Make Your Jaw Busy During Take-Off and Landing

Jaw movements like yawning, chewing or simply moving your lower jaw forward are helpful to pop your ear and equalize the pressure.When doing this, you can tilt your head and look up in the sky as it will put your Eustachian tubes into the right position and might open to clear the pressure. You can stop doing this movement if you hear a popping sound in your ears and repeat it only when you’re having ear fullness again. But….. do not over do it as you might hurt your jaw and suffer with another condition called TMJD (Temporo Mandibular Joint Disorder). This is also a serious condition that causes many excruciating symptoms. I had this after my flight on March 2015 and I needed to wear a splint for 7 months to correct may jaw position.

4. Swallow and  Try Valsalva Maneuver

Swallowing might be the most effective technique for me. Swallow frequently during plane’s climb and descend. If your swallowing does not work. You can also try the Valsalva Maneuver. Take a deep breath. Plug your nose and keep your mouth closed. Then blow air out through your nose forcefully until you feel your ears pop.

5. Keep Yourself Hydrated And Avoid Alcohol And Caffeine

During the flight, drink plenty of water. It will make you swallow more frequently and thicken nasal mucus, both good for keeping Eustachian tubes clear. Avoid drinking alcohol and caffeinated drinks as they will only dehydrate you. Warm water is even better as it soothes your throat and sinuses.

If none of these tips worked, you can try this tip that I read before online which actually worked for me when i flew with a mild cold. Ask the flight attendant for a styro foam cup, a paper napkin and another cup with a little hot water. Roll the napkin into a ball and soak it in the hot water. Then put it in the empty cup and hold it over your ear. The steam from that hot and wet paper will relieve pressure in your ear.

All these tips were personally tested and proven. I love flying and I am not worried anymore of having an ear pain at flight. Hope these will work for you as well.

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  • Reply
    Eric L. Bolden
    November 14, 2017 at 11:06 AM

    I have been flying since I was a kid and remember that painful feeling. Now as an adult, my sinuses are so bad when I fly. I am glad somebody has talked about this. Great post!

  • Reply
    Mattcliff Nii Seyram
    October 31, 2017 at 12:12 AM

    Good good

  • Reply
    Ajay chander
    October 21, 2017 at 12:32 AM

    i used to travel flights and i had this issue once . Your article is very helpful and thank you for wonderful suggestion..

  • Reply
    Vishu Saumya
    December 18, 2016 at 12:04 PM

    Thanks for these amazing tips!

  • Reply
    December 17, 2016 at 6:42 PM

    My ears don’t pressurise, so I get excruciating pain in my head if left unassisted. I use those earplane things and they work. I own a couple of pairs and just boil them after each flight to get rid of dust. Good as new.

  • Reply
    August 6, 2016 at 3:25 AM

    Oh the many times I have flown I can count how many times I had ear pain but even though its only happened a couple of times, it was bad enough that I hope to remember these tips.

  • Reply
    Fuss Free Helen
    August 4, 2016 at 5:59 PM

    I remember an agonising flight over 30 years ago that really scared me before my next flight. Thankfully I am OK now, but still get quite bad popping (even in a high lift). I find pinching my nose and blowing works wonders.

  • Reply
    August 3, 2016 at 6:10 PM

    What great tips, I’ve heard of a few of them, like chewing and my daughter always wears ear plugs. I think would feel a little daft with a styrofoam cup against my ear, but my ears are so bad I’d do anything to avoid pain.

    • Reply
      Wandering JM
      August 3, 2016 at 10:58 PM

      You do not need to reach on that point. Try moisturizing your nose and be hydrated. Swallow frequently during landing.

  • Reply
    Jayne (@SMABLblog)
    August 3, 2016 at 6:05 PM

    Fab tips, I normally have boiled sweets or something to chew on 🙂

  • Reply
    Kara AWNTY
    August 3, 2016 at 3:48 PM

    I always swear by sucking a boiled sweet during take off and landing

  • Reply
    Lilinha Espindula
    August 3, 2016 at 6:02 AM

    Great tips! Little man suffers from ear pain so we will be using your tips in our next flight! 🙂

  • Reply
    August 3, 2016 at 12:31 AM

    Great advice we are going away in a few months time so these tips will come in handy.

  • Reply
    Jess Powell (Babi a Fi)
    August 2, 2016 at 9:51 PM

    This was really interesting – I’ve always suffered with awful ear pain when flying, so it’s good to read some tips!

  • Reply
    Dean B
    August 2, 2016 at 9:45 PM

    Great tips! Someone mentioned chewing on gum, though I’ve never really tried it. Our daughter did her first long haul flight when she was barely a couple of months old and our doctor advised to feed her while ascending and descending 🙂

  • Reply
    July 25, 2016 at 4:05 AM

    Great post. I’ve not flown in years but I remembered ear pain when I did. Hopefully we are getting passports soon so I will remember you tips 🙂

  • Reply
    Ana De Jesus
    July 25, 2016 at 3:43 AM

    My ears always pop when I fly so it is definitely a good idea to keep my jaw busy x

  • Reply
    July 24, 2016 at 4:11 PM

    I never realised what you eat can affect it! I did know about swallowing though and so always have sucky sweets when we fly … Although we always end up having half the packet before it’s even needed! Haha

  • Reply
    July 24, 2016 at 7:38 AM

    Great tips. I chew a gum during takeoff and landing.

  • Reply
    Francesca - From Pennies to Pounds
    July 23, 2016 at 4:43 PM

    Good tips. I used to get the worst ears when I was younger. I do the jaw thing!

  • Reply
    Jess Helicopter
    July 23, 2016 at 3:31 PM

    This is a very comprehensive guide. I don’t like those nasal sprays though, it feels so unnatural to me to spray something UP there! 😉 But there are so many tips that I am sure it doesn’t matter. Thank you!

  • Reply
    Ron Oliver Clarin
    June 26, 2016 at 10:40 AM

    As a first time doing air travel, This is a good guide.

    • Reply
      Wandering JM
      June 27, 2016 at 9:39 PM

      Yes it is. Even for the long time travelers who have been suffering for long time

  • Reply
    June 12, 2016 at 4:17 AM

    Thanks for the very useful tips . Will come handy in my next flight. 😀

    • Reply
      Wandering JM
      June 12, 2016 at 7:42 AM

      You’re welcome. Hope one of these works for you

  • Reply
    June 3, 2016 at 2:05 AM

    Oh my! This is my problem whenever I had a flight! But, when I look at the passengers, they are calm. Is it only me? The ear pain makes me feel so uncomfortable and uneasy on my sit.I thought all along that it was the plane’s engine.

    Yes, I admit I had sinusitis. Thanks for this information. Now, I knew it. Hopefully, it’ll be better next time.

  • Reply
    According to Greta
    May 31, 2016 at 6:08 PM


  • Reply
    Michelle | michwanderlust
    May 24, 2016 at 11:53 PM

    If you are a diver, I suspect that what you call the Valsalva Maneuver is what we call equalising 🙂 I’ve never had problems with my ears while flying since learning to dive as I just use that technique in the air as well!

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 7:05 AM

    Great tips. I have sinus issues too, so next time I fly I will remember this.Thank you

  • Reply
    camellia's cottage
    May 22, 2016 at 9:47 PM

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!

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