Traveling is a delight and nothing beats the efficiency and convenience of traveling to far-off lands by airplane and knowing that your car is safely parked at FLL Park Safe’s airport parking lot. Despite this, perhaps your are still a little anxious for your flight because you, like so many others, suffer from airplane ear. If you’ve ever experienced this common travel discomfort, then you know it can really throw a wrench into your day. Here are some tips to avoid it.
Airplane ear (also called barotitis media) is the pain or discomfort you experience in one or both ears caused by the rapidly changing air pressure inside the airplane cabin when taking off or landing. Eustachian tubes are the main culprit in why we experience airplane ear. They are the tubes that connect from the inner ear to our nose and throat and that allows air to flow to and from the inner ear. Children and babies are afflicted more often than adults because they have smaller Eustachian tubes.
The pain you experience is from the air pressure inside your middle ear not being equalized with the air pressure outside which causes stress on the middle ear tissue and eardrum. Discomfort happens more often when the plane is landing than taking off because as a plane descends the air pressure in the cabin rises. In order to counter this, the Eustachian tubes must suck in air which they find a lot harder to do than expelling air.
Mild and severe symptoms
Usually symptoms clear up within 30 minutes or so of landing, but symptoms can range from mild to severe and last a lot longer than that.
In mild cases, symptoms can include muffled hearing and some pain or discomfort. These symptoms usually clear up once the air pressure evens out and yawning, swallowing or chewing gum can help to “pop” your ears.
In more severe cases, symptoms include extremely sharp pain, moderate to severe hearing loss, vertigo, nausea and bleeding from the ears. Deafness in the ear can even persist days after flying. The only thing that makes it worse is when your fellow flyers suggest that simply yawning or chewing gum will help when clearly it does not. With severe cases, it’s not just an inconvenience or mild discomfort, but extreme pain and something these flyers dread come every flight. Here are some real tips on how to battle airplane ear that don’t include blowing your nose or swallowing.
1. Decongestants and antihistamines
Sinus infections, colds or allergies may make you more prone to airplane ear so if you’re currently suffering from these it’s probably best to avoid flying at the time. If that isn’t an option for you, taking decongestants and antihistamines about 30 minutes before your plane takes off and (in the case of a long flight) again before it lands can help soothe your symptoms.
2. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatories
Inflammation of the middle ear causes airplane ear, therefore an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen can help wonders and pain relievers like Tylenol can also help with the pain.
These are specialized ear plugs that you pop in 30 minutes to an hour before descent and can help keep airplane ear at bay or at least lessen the severity of it by regulating airflow. I suggest getting the children's’ size to make it easier to fit inside your ears, especially if you have smaller ears. You can find these at most airport stores, Walgreens and CVS and will run you about $5 to $10 for a pair which is good for a round trip flight.
4. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol causes membranes to swell and the eustachian tube to shrink, making airplane ear much more likely and painful. Instead, be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of water which also helps with jet lag.
5. Stay Awake
You must stay diligent when battling airplane ear and if you fall asleep you may miss the window of opportunity to prepare for landing which generally needs to be done 30 minutes to an hour before descent begins.
See a doctor if you’re experiencing severe symptoms that last more than a few hours, vomiting and/or bleeding. Schedule an appointment with an ear specialist if you frequently experience severe symptoms of airplane ear. And if you’re flying out of Fort Lauderdale don’t forget to put your mind at ease and book your airport parking reservation at FLL Park Safe to ensure your car’s security while flying! We specialize in long-term airport parking and cruise ship parking.