Valsalva Maneuver Ear popping while chewing

Ears and flies

Health advice for traveling abroad. Travel to remote places. Jet lag. Travel sickness. Altitude sickness

Usually your ears will calm down shortly after landing. Occasionally the pain or the feeling of a blockage is painful. If so, see your doctor.

Ears and flies

  • Why do my ears hurt on the plane?
  • Does it happen to everyone?
  • What can I do for my child?
  • What is an airplane ear?
  • What is causing the pain?
  • Why are some people more affected than others?
  • How can I prevent earache while flying?
  • What is the treatment for airplane ear?
  • Are there any complications?
  • Can I fly with an ear infection?

Why do my ears hurt on the plane?

If you've ever traveled by air, you know that the pilot has already told you that the plane has started its descent towards your destination. You start to feel a little strange, either blocked or painful.

It's all due to changes in pressure. As the aircraft begins to lose altitude, the pressure in the air around you changes. Until the pressure in the tubes behind the eardrum adjusts, the pressure inside and outside the ear is different. This pushes the eardrum in, stretches it, and hurts you.

Does it happen to everyone?

The change in pressure occurs in all people, but in some people the pain or blockages are worse than others. Especially when you are overworked (e.g. because of a cold or hay fever), it is more difficult for your ears to adjust. When this happens, you may feel pain or stuffy ears more than the person sitting next to you.

What can I do for my child?

Children will get these changes in pressure in their ears too, and it is invariably a baby to cry when the plane begins to descend and they notice that their ears start to hurt. And of course, you can't tell a baby to perform the Valsalva maneuver at this point. It depends a little on the age of the child. Bottle-feeding a baby often helps, as sucking and swallowing will even out the pressure for them.

Sucking in a pacifier (pacifier) ​​can have the same effect. Avoid cooked sweets in very young children because of the risk of suffocation, but in older children it can be a means that will make you a popular parent.

A drink that has a straw in it or in a sports bottle can also come in handy. If your child has a cold and is therefore likely to have a bigger problem on the flight, a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen an hour before landing could result in a smoother flight. Some of the actions outlined above can help, but decongestants are generally not recommended for children.

What is an airplane ear?

Some people experience an earache when flying in an airplane. Usually this happens when the aircraft descends to land. The deeper the plane gets, the more painful the pain and when landing it can be very intense. The pain usually subsides after landing.

What is causing the pain?

The pain is caused by uneven pressure that develops between the air in the middle ear and the air outside the ear.

The small space in the middle ear behind the eardrum is usually filled with air. This air space is connected to the back of the nose by a tiny canal called the Eustachian tube. The air on both sides of the eardrum should be at the same pressure. The air pressure is highest near the ground. When an airplane descends, the air pressure increases. This pushes the eardrum inward, which can be painful. To alleviate this, the pressure in the middle ear must also rise rapidly. In order to equalize the pressure, the air must flow through the Eustachian tube into the middle ear.

Why are some people more affected than others?

The Eustachian tube is usually closed, but opens from time to time when we swallow, yawn, or chew. For most people, just swallowing and chewing normally causes air to move up the Eustachian tube to equalize the pressure. Some airlines offer sweets to suck on and eat when the plane dismounts to encourage you to chew and swallow.

However, in some people, the Eustachian tube doesn't open as easily, so the pressure may not equalize as quickly. For example, some people have a narrower Eustachian tube than normal. If you have a condition that causes the Eustachian tube to become blocked, air cannot travel to your middle ear. The most common cause of a clogged Eustachian tube is phlegm and inflammation that occurs with colds, sore throats, hay fever, etc. Any condition that causes extra mucus on the bridge of the nose can cause this problem.

How can I prevent earache while flying?

Ideally, anyone with an ear infection, cold, respiratory infection, etc. should not fly. However, not many people will cancel their vacation trips for this reason. The following can help people who experience ear pain while flying.

  • Sucking candy when the plane begins to descend. When you swallow, yawn, or chew, air is more likely to pass through the Eustachian tube. It is a good idea for babies to feed them or give them a drink or pacifier as they descend to encourage them to swallow.
  • Try the following:: Breathe in. Then, with your mouth closed and your nose pinched (Valsalva maneuver), try to exhale gently. In this way, no air is blown out, but you gently push the air into the Eustachian tube. When you do this, you may feel like your ears "pop" when air is forced into the middle ear. This often fixes the problem. Repeat every few minutes until you land - whenever you feel discomfort in your ear.
  • Do not sleep when the aircraft descends to land. (Ask the stewardess or stewardess to wake you up when the plane begins to descend.) When you are awake, you can make sure to suck and swallow to get air into your middle ear.

The above usually works for most people. However, if you are particularly prone to developing an aircraft ear, in addition to the tips above, here are some things to consider:

  • Antihistamine tablets (available in pharmacies). Take the recommended dose the day before and on the day of travel. This can help limit the amount of slime you make.
  • A nasal decongestant spray can dry out the mucus in your nose. For example one with xylometazoline - available in pharmacies. Spray your nose about an hour before your expected time of descent. Spray again after five minutes. Then spray every 20 minutes until landing. These can only be used for a short time.
  • Decongestant tablets or syrup. For example, a drug called pseudoephedrine. This can be obtained from a pharmacy without a prescription. Take the recommended dose half an hour before starting and, if necessary, repeat the directions according to the directions.
  • Air pressure regulating earplugs. These are cheap, reusable earplugs that are widely sold at airports and in many pharmacies. These earplugs slow down the change in air pressure at the eardrum. (This is the problem of the rapid change in pressure on the eardrum, and these earbuds slow it down.) Follow the instructions that come with them. Basically, you use them before the aircraft door closes. Some people then wear them throughout the flight. Some people take them out when the plane reaches cruising altitude and put them back in just before the plane lands.
  • Blow up a special balloon. Products like Otovent® are balloons that you blow through your nose by blocking one nostril and blowing through the other. These can be bought at pharmacies, and some people find that they help stop the pain of flying or loosen the ears afterwards.

What is the treatment for airplane ear?

At the level, the treatment is the same as for all measures described in the section on prevention. So try one or more of the following methods:

  • Suck a boiled candy.
  • Have a drink, preferably through a straw or a sports bottle.
  • Yawn or open your mouth as if you were yawning.
  • Pinch your nose with your fingers and blow through your nose until your ears "pop".
  • Give babies a dummy to suckle or a drink from a bottle.

If the above doesn't help, even though the pain can be severe, it usually happens quickly. If it doesn't set, take pain relievers like acetaminophen until it goes away. Fluid or mucus sometimes collects in the middle ear a few days after the flight, which can dull the hearing for some time. This is the case when the Eustachian tube is still blocked. This is more likely if you had a cold before flying. To clear it, you can try any of the measures in the section above. For example the Valsalva maneuver, a decongestant or the balloon that you blow through your nose (Otovent®). On a flight full of people, blowing a balloon through your nose can be embarrassing, but if your ears are still clogged afterward, you should be able to use it in a less public place!

You should see a doctor if the pain or dull hearing does not clear within a few days.

Are there any complications?

Complications are extremely uncommon or millions of people would not fly regularly. In some cases the eardrum can become so pressurized that it bursts (perforates) and leaves a hole in the eardrum. When this happens, the pain usually goes away immediately. Perforated eardrums usually heal well without treatment.

Can I fly with an ear infection?

Ideally, it is advisable NOT to fly if you have an ear infection, such as otitis media or otitis externa. However, if you (or your child) do have to fly, there is no sign that you are likely to be seriously injured. The pain you have in your ear can be worse and it can take longer to settle down. You may have a perforated eardrum. If you have to fly with an ear infection, decongestant medicines can help prevent problems. (These are not suitable for children under 6 years of age and are only suitable for children 6 to 12 years of age with the advice of a pharmacist.) It may also be worthwhile to take regular pain relievers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen during the flight.

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