Not being able to pop your ears on a flight can be an excruciating experience. I’ve been dealing with this issue for the last little while, as I seem to always come down with a sinus infection the day before departure. Talk about impeccable timing!
If you have a bad sinus infection, doctors will recommend you to either cancel or change your travel plans until it clears up, but let’s be real, this isn’t always something you can or want to do. So, if you absolutely have to fly, instead of suffering through take off and landing, try some of my following techniques for preventing and dealing with plugged ears:
8. Take an over-the-counter decongestant
About 20 minutes before you take off and descend, take a decongestant. This will open up your sinus tubes and help prevent or alleviate the pain.
7. Always pack gum and or chewy candy
Not only will gum keep your breath smelling delicious, but chomping on something chewy will help your ears to pop. If you don’t have gum but you have candy, this will also help. As long as you have something that will produce more saliva in your mouth and cause you to swallow more, this can help to pop your ears.
6. Sip on Water
If you don’t have gum or candy, taking sips of water continuously also helps. Every time you swallow, you have a chance of popping your ears in a non-intrusive and gentle way.
5. Yawn, Blow, Swallow
Yawning, swallowing, or blowing while pinching your nose should help reduce the pressure in your ears. Just be sure to not do this too hard as it can rupture your ear drum and cause may more discomfort.
4. Use a Neti Pot
Everyday for at least a week before departure, clean out your sinus passage using a neti pot. The neti pot is a container designed to rinse debris or mucus from nasal cavity and has been used for centuries. All you do is add about 1/2 teaspoon of Himalayan sea salt to enough warm water to fill your neti pot, and pour the water into each nostril.
3. Don’t Sleep During Take off or Landing
If you are asleep during take off and landing, you will not be able to equalize which could lead to pressure build up in your sinuses. Make sure to set an alarm so that you wake up before ascent or decent. You can also ask a flight attendant to wake you up if you don’t have an alarm.
2. Hold a Cup of Napkins Soaked in Hot Water to Your Ears
Yes, you will look ridiculous, but this may be my favourite technique of all. Ask one of the flight attendants to give you a cup of hot water along with several napkins. Take those napkins and soaked them in the hot water. Place the cup up to the ear that is plugged (use two cups if both are plugged), cover and hold it tight. I also find it even more soothing to take the hot wet napkin out of the cup and hold it directly over the ear while tilting that ear close to your shoulder.
1. Don’t Stress!
I remember the first time I dealt with horrible pleasure build up in my ears and they would not pop for days! This can be a traumatizing experience because you think that they will never clear up and you will go through life feeling like you have cotton balls in your ears. Although it can be scary, try to remain calm. Your ears will pop eventually pop and it will like you’ve had a mini orgasm. If however, your ears haven’t popped in 24 hours, I would recommend seeing a doctor who can either pop them for you or give you antibiotics to help clear up those sinuses.