Airplane Ear

Traveling with kids can be stressful enough as is but there is nothing worse than the oppressive hovering fear that someone will get “airplane ear.”  I remember getting it a few times as a kid and it was just plain awful, so now, during take off and landing, I basically open up my own small concession stand  — handing out lollipops, bottles of water and headphones (for some reason it helps) all while encouraging a “yawning” marathon.  So what exactly is this sinister “airplane ear”?   The technical name is “Barotrauma” which in a nutshell means trauma (yikes!) to your inner ear valve due to a a pressure differential.  Flight attendants always suggest filling cups with warm soaked paper towels to hold over your ears or holding your nose and blowing (neither which has ever really worked for me at least).  Sticking your fingers in your ears always seems to help (although probably not the best idea).  Any other suggestions?



Comments (10)

April 13, 2011

It can seem a bit difficult to organise but this worked well on me when I was a child: get 2 plastic glasses, put some cotton wool at the bottom of the glass, put some hot water on it and put the glass on the ears during take off and landing. normally the staff is ok to put hot water on the cotton for you. x

Esther in Amsterdam
April 13, 2011

Chewing gum can help too…

April 13, 2011

I totally would recommend a product called Ear Planes. They’re little bud’s that you stick in the ear (kid or adult version) and allow the ear to equalise. I use them if I have to fly with a cold (we all know how painful that is!).
good luck!

April 13, 2011

I hand out chewing gum to our four children at takeoff. In the last 2 years the four kids have “taken off” more than 30 times and the gum always seems to help.

April 13, 2011

we do the same at landing – so well more than SIXTY times in the last 2 years – sheesh.

April 13, 2011

My daughter often has a middle ear infection. Our doctor recommended giving her decongestant nose drops about 45 minutes before the flight, even when there’s no infection. She has never cried or shown any irritation during take-off and landing. Here’s a link to someone who explains the theory behind it.
happy flying!

Zoe Barrett
April 13, 2011

For babies & Toddlers – The best thing is to get them to drink milk or water from a bottle on take off & landing. The sucking action helps the ears pop & balance with the pressure of the plane. This has worked for my little boy. You can also be pro active and give them paracetomol to help with pain just before you get on the plane. With older children get them to drink from a straw, this provided the same sucking action.

Hope this helps

April 14, 2011

Thanks everyone for all the great tips!!! We have a long flight next week – wish me luck….

April 19, 2011

We used a decongestant on our last flight and it certainly helped where the bottle and dummy hadn’t previously!

If the bottle does work though, just remember to take one for the take off and another for the landing. Good luck with the flight!

May 2, 2011

Ah, yes. Our five-month-old’s ears didn’t pop on her first flight despite much nursing during the descent. From that we learned that rinsing tiny baby’s noses with saline water forces them to swallow and clear the ear canals. My baby hated it and wailed, but her ears popped – it’s a great emergency backup if your teeny tiny isn’t a pacifier user and isn’t going to nurse the full 30 minutes descending takes. We gritted our teeth and did it every time and avoided further agonies.

Now that she’s three, I bring a small baby bottle with a first-phase nipple and water, and super chewy snacks like gummy bears and try to get her to open her mouth super wide a lot. Older kids are much easier than the infants on this one, in my opinion…although the year she was two was the time she spent five straight hours like the girl in the picture. Ah, good times!

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