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.
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.