Blocked Nose and Ear Trouble
Increased levels of airborne bacteria as a result of low humidity, dry air and a stuffy environment can lead to sinus problems, as can the changes in pressure during take-off and landing. But there are a few measures you can take to reduce the negative effects which flying can have on your sinuses.
Blocked nose while flying
A blocked nose is not directly related to take-off or landing. Pressure changes in the cabin are not significant enough to negatively affect breathing through your nose.
Air circulation while flying
The reduced levels of moisture in the air coming from the ventilation system and circulating around the cabin can lead to a blocked nose.
Medications to relieve a blocked nose
If your blocked nose is caused by allergies, use the medication recommended to you by your doctor. Take an antihistamine one hour before flying. Nasal sprays containing decongestants and tablets containing pseudoephedrine can also help relieve a blocked nose. These medicines should be taken one hour before flying.
Natural remedies to relieve a blocked nose
Breathing in the steam from a hot drink or drinking 5-10 cups of water will help restore the moisture in your nose and will relieve the symptoms of a blocked nose. Mints and menthol chewing gum can also help relieve your blocked nose.
Using nasal sprays
Use a nasal spray which contains a decongestant half an hour before flying. On short-haul journeys lasting 2-3 hours, you may have to take an additional dose while flying. On long-haul journeys, take a dose every 2-3 hours. If your doctor has recommended a spray containing corticosteroids, you should start using this about a week before your flight.
Keeping hydrated with a blocked nose
Drinking herbal teas, sparkling water, and mineral water can help you enjoy a more pleasant journey.
Medications which cause a blocked nose
Diuretic drugs can lead to dryness and blockages in the nose. In addition, medications with sildenafil citrate as the active ingredient, and birth control pills can lead to nasal congestion.
Things to avoid when you have a blocked nose
Sniffing or blowing your nose aggressively will not help a blocked nose. However, breathing in deeply through your nose during take-off can stabilize the pressure in your sinuses and reduce any pain. When landing, maneuvers such as the Valsalva maneuver will help stabilize pressure.
Blocked noses in infants and children
Moisten your infant's nose with seawater or salt water every hour. If recommended by your doctor, children over the age of three can use suspensions containing pseudoephedrine or decongestant sprays.
Seeking medical help for a blocked nose
If your blocked nose or headache persists for 24 hours after your flight, consult your doctor.
Ear trouble when flying
Discomfort in the ears while flying is usually a result of changes in air pressure. Pressure changes, especially during ascent and descent, can cause pain in the ears. Changes in pressure will affect infants, and those suffering with colds or sinus complaints, hay fever, or inner ear infections. However, there are a few measures you can take while flying to help reduce ear discomfort.
Close your mouth and pinch your nostrils with your fingers, and try to exhale. As the air has nowhere to escape, it’s forced into the inner ear.
Close your mouth and pinch your nostrils with your fingers. Press the base of your tongue up on the roof of your mouth. Then move the tip of the tongue forwards and backward to activate the mouth muscles and open the Eustachian tubes.
Close your mouth and pinch your nostrils with your fingers. Then try to swallow. This will open Eustachian tubes and allow air to be discharged from the inner ear.
Thrust your jaw forward while carrying out the Valsalva or Frenzel maneuver to make them more effective.
Swallow while carrying out the Valsalva maneuver. In addition to these, you can suck on a hard candy as the aircraft descends. Engage the swallowing muscles and this will open the Eustachian tubes. Swallowing will occur more frequently when chewing or sucking on hard candy.
To help reduce discomfort for infants, have them suck on a pacifier during take-off and landing. The sucking action will help open the Eustachian tubes.
We recommended you don't sleep as the aircraft makes its descent. This is because the metabolism works more slowly while sleeping. This can cause a greater difference in pressure between the external environment and the inner ear.
A common method used to alleviate the effects of pressure changes is yawning frequently. However, yawning won't help reduce ear pain. Instead, pinch your nose with your fingers to close your nostrils. Let a little air into your mount, then try to blow this air through your nose. You'll hear a "pop" because the air can't escape through your nose. Breathe through your mouth after you hear this sound. Continue this pressure equalization technique after landing. You can also use nasal sprays and decongestants. If you can't feel your ears pop or if discomfort continues, consult a physician.
Medication should be used first for problems arising as a result of barotrauma. If medication is unable to treat the problem, surgical remedies such as the fitting of an inner ear tube may help. There is no danger associated with flying with ear tubes.