Ear pain on flights

Ear pain on flightsEar pain on flights.Photo: NHI.NO

Getting ear pain during flights is common, but not always so easy to deal with for children.

Most people have experienced it: the uncomfortable pain in your ears during a flight.

The reason that people get pain in their ears during a flight is that the air pressure inside the middle ear is different from the pressure outside the ear.

The Eustachian tube, which opens and closes when you swallow or yawn will usually be able to compensate for this difference in pressure, but when sitting in a plane the change of pressure happens so quickly that you can be unable to swallow fast enough to compensate for the pressure changes on board. Thus, the pressure on the eardrum.

In children, the Eustachian tube is narrowed, so they will often experience more pain than adults. Also if you have a cold, it’s easier to get pain.

This explains why many babies cry during the last minutes of the flight. The air pressure in the cabin increases as the plane prepares to land. In other words, the pressure change in the cabin and toddlers inability to adapt to that can cause the ears to hurt during the flight. A child who has a cold will have less chances to equalize pressure, since a cold can cause swelling of the mucous membranes in the nose and airways.

But the pain is only temporary – it will not cause any lasting problems for children and usually the pain will subside within a few minutes.

Tips to ease ear pain:

Drink plenty of decaffeinated fluids; water is best for this, throughout the flight. Drinking a lot is important, not only because it makes swallowing more frequent and easier, but also because the air inside the plane is dry and this makes the mucous membranes dry and less supple and this increases the likelihood that the Eustachian tube becomes clogged.

Take Paracetamol or Ibuprofen half an hour before takeoff or landing if you know that your has child gets ear pain when he or she flies.

Children who are old enough can try chewing gum, sucking on a candy, drink through a straw or blowing bubbles through a straw.

Yawn frequently (if your child is able to do this on purpose).

Keep your child awake during takeoff and landing. When sleeping, swallowing doesn’t happen so often, and it’s harder to keep the air pressure in the middle ear equalized.

Wear ear plugs that are specifically designed to counter “cotton balls” and pain in ears on flights. These are earplugs that slowly equalize the pressure on the eardrum during ascents and landings. They can be purchased at a pharmacy and at the airport.

Use a nasal spray to open the airways.

If you have allergies, you could take allergy medication about an hour before the flight.


Source: NHI.NO / Norway Today