Flying with a cold can be a downright excruciating experience. Due to altitude changes and increased pressure, even flying when you’re not sick can have side effects on your ears and sinuses. Being a regular traveler that always seems to come down with a sinus infection the day before departure I’ve had experience with these issues a while, and I think I’ve curated a very helpful list of tips for flying with a cold that will make a painful plane ride a little more pleasant for you.
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 takeoff and landing, try some of my following techniques for preventing and dealing with plugged ears and the other typical symptoms of flying with a cold.
Helpful Tips For Flying With A Cold
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. Over the counter, decongestants can be a modern miracle for those really horrible colds that seem to seal off your entire head but be careful with how much and how often you use these. Decongestants can’t cure your ailment, but they do help alleviate symptoms. Remember that the ingredients in these can also be harmful if you used too heavily or too often, but in small doses, these can make flying with a cold much easier.
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 pop when flying. If you don’t have gum you can also try a chewy candy, this also tends to help. As long as you have something that will produce more saliva in your mouth and you remember to swallow more, this will help to pop your ears in the air and alleviate the pressure.
6. Sip on Water
If you don’t have any gum or candy, taking sips of water continuously can also help your ears pop. The trick is to keep swallowing to increase the likelihood your ears popping in a gentle way. If you try too aggressively you could end up irritating your ear canal and sinuses further. Especially when you’re flying with a cold or a sinus infection, it’s important to try and pop your ears very gently.
5. Yawn or Gently Blow
If you start to feel the sensation of your ears filling, try forcing yourself to yawn. This can help exercise the muscles necessary to pop your ears while flying. If this doesn’t work gently blow while pinching your nose, this should also help reduce any pressure that’s built up in your ears. Just be sure to not do this too hard as it can rupture your eardrum and cause a much more serious issue you’ll have to deal with.
4. Use a Neti Pot
Every day for at least a week before your flight, rinse your nasal passage using a neti pot. The neti pot is a container designed to rinse debris or mucus from the 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’re asleep during takeoff and landing, you will not be able to equalize the pressure in your head which could lead to pressure build-up in your sinuses. Make sure to set an alarm so that you wake up before ascent or descent. 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. This feels great and can help reduce head and ear irritation if you’re feeling that sinus pressure while flying with a cold.
1. Don’t Stress!
I remember the first time I dealt with horrible pressure 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.