You want to feel your best when traveling, but fluid in your ears makes plane travel uncomfortable because of the air pressure changes that are happening. Traveling by plane is especially painful if you recently had an ear infection or a stuffy nose from a cold or allergies, that can put pressure on your middle ears. To avoid the pain -- and perhaps the crankiness -- that go along with otitis media, you need something that will make your vacation feel less like going to work sick and more like the exciting holiday you planned.
Ear Fluid on Airplane Trips
When traveling by plane, a change in air pressure accompanies the change in altitude, which can mean sharp pain in your eardrum if fluid blocks your ears. The Eustachian tube runs from your nose to your middle ear; and each time you swallow, it passes an air bubble to equalize the pressure in your ear tubes. A cold or sinus infection can cause a blockage of this tube due to nasal congestion and the buildup that occurs in the back of the nose from that. That makes it impossible for your middle ear to adjust to the pressure changes that occur when flying, especially when going from low pressure to high pressure as your plane descends for landing.
Air Travel Tips
To ease the searing pain of "airplane ear," insert travel earplugs that keep your ear pressure relatively constant in your inner ear and sides of the eardrum. For more severe cases, another option is a decongestant nasal spray or pill, which helps ears pop more readily and help with the temporary hearing loss that occurs as well. Because decongestants can cause problems such as high blood pressure and nervousness, speak with your physician before taking them. Also, staying awake on a flight is more comfortable than sleeping, as you don't swallow as often when you sleep -- and that means less remedial ear popping.
Otitis Media in Young Children
Children under 7 have narrow Eustachian tubes that run horizontal rather than relatively perpendicular. This makes otitis media more common and severe in infants and young children. Having your baby suck on a pacifier or bottle can help encourage her ears to pop, easing discomfort. Elevating her head can reduce the likelihood of liquids such as milk running into her middle ear -- a problem that would only worsen her ear pain.
Whether in a plane, sightseeing in a new city or enjoying a cruise, you can try quick remedies to ease ear discomfort during your travel plans. Swallowing and yawning open your Eustachian tube, which can temporarily unblock it long enough to equalize the pressure in your middle ear. Chewing gum or sucking on mints makes you swallow more. You can also hold your nostrils closed and breathe out with your mouth shut. If you have a runny nose, this may prove counterproductive as more fluid may rush into your middle ear. An alternative is blowing up a balloon -- a possibility in your hotel room, at least.