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Flying with an ear infection

Flying with an ear infection
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Learn what savvy travellers do to stop plane ear

Ear pain while flying is really uncomfortable – but there are a few things you can do to relieve it, both before and during your flight.

What causes earache on a plane?

The most common cause of plane ear is the change of air pressure during the plane’s ascent and descent. If your ear is blocked by inflammation or congestion, your body will struggle to respond to the pressure changes and this causes pain and discomfort.

How can I relieve ear pain while flying?

Try to be awake for the ascent and descent of your plane so that you can take steps to relieve your earache.

The most common advice given to flyers concerned about ear pain is to chew gum or suck a sweet or drink through a straw or a sports bottle when the plane is taking off and landing. You can also try yawning or swallowing to relieve ear pain. These actions move your jaw, which helps your ears to ‘pop’. This is how your body regulates pressure.

How can I prevent pain in my ears on a plane?

If you have an idea of what is causing the congestion that is blocking your ears and preventing them from regulating pressure, treat it before your flight. This might mean speaking with your usual healthcare provider; or getting advice about decongestants and allergy meds from your pharmacist.

You can also ask a medic if the Valsalva manoeuvre or the Toynbee manoeuvre are suitable for you. Both of these manoeuvres can be used to relieve ear pain while flying.

Should I cancel my vacation if I have an ear infection?

Anyone who is concerned about an ear infection or injury should see a healthcare professional for advice. It can be daunting seeking medical advice when abroad, but we have a quick guide to help you.

A nurse or doctor can advise on whether it is safe to fly, and if necessary, provide a letter for your airline or travel insurer that will help you to re-arrange your flight if that is necessary.

You can also read about earache with My Health Alberta.

It’s really important to get travel health insurance for your trip abroad. Your normal Canadian health insurance will not cover you for healthcare abroad. It can be very expensive to get treated for even a simple medical condition like earache. And of course if you have to stay longer to recover, you’ll have to pay for your accommodation, so travel insurance is really important.

Where can I find out about health risks at my destination?

We recommend you make a travel health appointment six to eight weeks ahead of your trip abroad. At this travel health appointment we can tell you about the health risks at your destination and help you work out what shots you need to protect yourself. They can also help you to work out when to start and stop taking your antimalarial tablets, and tell you which antimalarials are right for you.

Our travel health nurses and pharmacists can also recommend simple habits – such as dressing to avoid mosquito bites – that will support the protection afforded by these vaccines.