Everyone who's ever been on an airplane is probably familiar with that feeling of fullness in your ears as you take off and land. This feeling has a few names, and is most commonly referred to as "airplane ear." Knowing what symptoms to look out for and how to remedy it before it becomes serious is a must for all travelers.
Airplane ear, also known as ear barotrauma, among a few other names, occurs when stress is exerted onto your ear drum because air pressure in your middle ear and air pressure in the environment are not in balance. It's called airplane ear because it occurs very frequently on flights when you are increasing and decreasing altitudes quickly during takeoff and landing.
Airplane ear is common, and can often be easily cured or prevented. In some cases though, it can be more severe and require medical attention. If you experience severe pain that lasts long after a flight, you should seek help from a medical professional. Some conditions, like sickness and congestion, can worsen symptoms of airplane ear.
Airplane ear is usually easily recognizable. The most common symptoms include:
More severe symptoms of airplane ear include:
More severe symptoms, especially if they last long after your flight, should be brought to the attention of a medical professional. The more common and less severe symptoms, however, will usually go away within a few hours of landing, if they do not go away during your flight. If they persist, you should also seek medical attention.
The easiest and fastest remedy for airplane ear is to yawn, swallow, or chew gum. Holding your nose and "blowing" so that you exert pressure on your ears can also help. These actions can help open up your ears, which give you that "pop" that often alleviates airplane ear. It's also important to do this multiple times per flight, as you change altitudes a few times as you go up and come down. A few other important actions you can take to prevent and remedy airplane ear include:
Staying awake means you'll be alert and able to try popping your ears a few times as you take off and land. By falling asleep, you could be allowing a lot of pressure to build up in your ears, which will make it harder to pop them once you do wake up.
If your ears or nose are congested when you travel, it's must easier for you to get stuck with a bad case of airplane ear. If you need to travel when sick or congested, be sure to take decongestants or nasal sprays before taking off, and as needed before landing. Consult with your doctor about using these if you experience painful or frequent airplane ear, as they may be able to best advise you.
Earplugs can help ease some of the pressure on your ears, so they can be helpful in preventing or lessening the effects of airplane ear. Earplugs can be especially helpful during takeoff and landing, and are also a good idea when sleeping so that you can ease pressure in case the plane ascends or descends as you sleep.
Drinking enough water and eating to stay hydrated and healthy during the flight is another important factor in combatting airplane ear. Staying hydrated can help your body stay in top shape so that you can more easily "pop" your ears and fight off any germs that may be going around the plane that could leave you with an illness which would worsen your airplane ear.