Most people have felt their ears pop during takeoff and landing on an airplane due to change in cabin pressure changes. For a toddler, though, this sensation can be more than just mildly uncomfortable; it can be painful.

When we change altitude, our ears react to the air pressure changes. The eustachian tube leading from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat tries to equalize the pressure on our eardrums. In children, the eustachian tube is smaller; regulating pressure may take longer or be more painful, possibly resulting in a crying toddler and miserable passengers. You can, however, prevent or relieve that pain and avoid the airplane ear hassle taking up the entire flight with some simple comfort measures.

Give a dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen before you get on the plane to relieve the pain in your child’s ears if it occurs. Always follow the medication dosage instructions.

Encourage your toddler to drink water or juice before the flight and while the plane is taking off and climbing to altitude. Not only does swallowing the liquid help keep the ears clear, but the extra hydration keeps nasal mucus from getting too thick in the airplane’s dry air, clogging the eustachian tubes.

Offer a chewy snack, such as a gummi candy or fruit snack. The chewing motion helps keep the eustachian tubes free. While children’s travel tips may say so, avoid giving toddlers hard candy like lollipops or chewing gum. Most cannot chew or suck the treat without swallowing and are likely to place it somewhere that it shouldn’t be. Offering a pacifier to suck on may also help kid’s ear pressure.

Yawn frequently. Most people yawn when they see other people yawning, and your toddler will probably want to imitate you. Yawning helps equalize the pressure and reduce pain.

Keep your toddler awake during takeoff and landing. When asleep, she will not swallow as often and may wake up in pain. Encourage her to nap after you are in the air.

Allow your toddler to cry for a few moments. For some young children, crying helps them regulate the pressure in their ears and could help alleviate ear pain. It may not be pleasant for you or for the other passengers, but if you let them cry for a few moments and then offer comfort measures, they may remain pain-free. If you have worries about your child’s crying feel free to ask a flight attendant for advice and know that earplugs are available to other passengers.

Things You Will Need
  • Juice or water

  • Chewy candy or snacks


If your child has an ear infection or trouble with her ears, talk to your pediatrician or healthcare provider before you fly. Flying with an ear infection can cause extreme pain in young children; it’s best to postpone air travel or make alternative travel plans if possible until the infection clears up.

Avoid giving your toddler antihistamines or cold medicine before flying, unless recommended by your doctor. Most over the counter medications are designed for older children (four and up) and not toddlers.