Ear discomfort during flights is due to changes in pressure. Steps can be taken to ease the discomfort without consulting a doctor. These measures include not sleeping during take-off and landing, chewing gum or using ear plugs.

Some people experience ear discomfort or pain due to pressure changes from being on an airplane. In medical terms, doctors refer to this condition by the following terms:

ear barotrauma
average parotitis
middle aerotite
When people suffer from it during a flight, it is often not due to an underlying disease. On the contrary, it often occurs during takeoff and landing and results from changes in altitude and pressure.

One may be able to treat the problem with home remedies and over-the-counter products. If a particular medical condition is present, one may need to speak with a doctor to address the underlying cause.

6 tips that can be useful to avoid and treat ear pain during flights.

Avoid sleeping during takeoff and landing

Sleeping is not a problem in itself during a flight. However, if a person sleeps during the extreme pressure changes associated with takeoff and landing, they cannot take any action to actively prevent or treat the pain or discomfort. If a person intends to sleep, a phone or watch alarm can warn them of the approaching landing.

To chew gum

Chewing gum can help prevent ear pain during flights. This helps them to be less sensitive to the pressure changes of takeoff and landing. Chewing gum and swallowing activates the muscles that open the Eustachian tubes in the ears. This tube runs from the middle ear, the space behind the eardrum, to the back of the nose and throat and helps drain fluids. However, dysfunction can occur if it develops an infection or inflammation. One can also try yawning or sucking on a hard candy to get gum-like results.

Try decongestants

Decongestants can help relieve ear pain during the flight. A person may consider taking one 30 minutes before the flight to give the medication a chance to activate. Over-the-counter options should also be fine on the plane. People can usually get them at their local pharmacy.


Earplugs can help block out extra noise during flights to help a person fall asleep or concentrate on work. They can also help equalize pressure in the ears, which can help prevent in-flight discomfort. A person can use earplugs after takeoff if they intend to sleep or just for the duration of the flight to prevent any possible pain.

The Valsalva maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver can help maintain pressure in the middle ear during pressure changes. To perform this technique, a person can:

pinch one’s nostrils
close your mouth
try to exhale through your closed nose.
A person can perform this technique during takeoff and landing or if they feel pain in their ears during flight.

Avoid flying when you are sick

Colds and other upper respiratory tract infections that cause congestion and ear infections are risk factors for airborne ear infections. If a person can avoid traveling during this time, it can help prevent ear pain. If possible, a person could reschedule their flight for when they feel better. Alternatively, drinking plenty of fluids and using cold medicine can help relieve ear pain.

How to treat ear pain in babies, toddlers and toddlers?

Children may be more prone to suffering from ear pain on airplanes. This may be partly due to the following issues:

an inability to swallow or yawn on command
more frequent upper respiratory tract infections
an increase in tissue in the adenoids
the tubes responsible for equalizing pressure are straight, not curved like in adults, which makes drainage more difficult.
Infants and young children also have small Eustachian tubes, which is a Trusted Source risk factor for airplane ears.

To help a child with flight-related ear infections, a parent or caregiver can do the following:

avoid traveling when the child is sick or give plenty of fluids before and during the flight
when feeling fullness in the ear on takeoff or landing, give the baby a bottle and juice or water for the older child
for older children, encourage chewing, swallowing and yawning by giving them chewing gum if needed
wake up the sleeping child or baby during take-off and landing
treat cold symptoms as advised by a doctor

How to treat someone who is not feeling well

If an adult or child is not feeling well, experts recommend delaying flights. However, if a theft cannot be avoided, a person may want to take some of the following steps:

drink lots of fluids
take cold medicine or decongestants before the flight
discuss other treatments or prevention strategies with a doctor

When to contact a doctor

A person may consider seeing a doctor if they experience pain or aches in their ears more frequently. It could mean a sinus infection, ear infection, or other ear problems. Ear pain can be intrinsic or start in the ear, which refers to primary pain, or due to a referred condition, which refers to secondary pain. Secondary ear pain is caused by various nerve connections between the ears and other areas of the neck and head.

Possible underlying causes may include:

dental infections
temporomandibular jaw disorders
jaw related problems
certain head or throat cancers
ear infections.

One can consult a doctor if they think an underlying health condition may be causing an earache or pain. He can make a quick diagnosis and provide treatment depending on the cause.


Avoiding ear pain during flights often requires minimal interventions. Tips and prevention include chewing gum, decongestants, the Valsalva maneuver, and not sleeping during takeoff and landing. A parent or caregiver can help children by encouraging similar techniques. However, the child may need minor adjustments, such as drinking during takeoff and landing or using a bulb syringe to clear congestion.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.