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What To Do When Flying With An Ear Infection

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Flying with a child who has an ear infection

The Telethon Kids Institute is based within the Perth Childrens Hospital, and is one of the largest, and most successful medical research institutes in Australia, comprising a dedicated and diverse team of around 1,000 staff, students and honoraries.

We’ve created a bold blueprint that brings together community, researchers, practitioners, policy makers and funders, who share our vision to improve the health and development of children through excellence in research, and the application of that knowledge.

The Institute is headed by leading paediatrician and infectious diseases expert Professor Jonathan Carapetis, with Founding Director Professor Fiona Stanley now Patron.

Telethon Kids is independent and not-for-profit. The majority of funding comes from our success in winning national and international competitive research grants. We also receive significant philanthropic support from corporate Australia and the community, most notably through our Principal Partner, Telethon.

Benadryl And Ibuprofen For Kids On Airplanes

Children with chronic ear infections tend to have chronic inflammation, which makes it a little bit more difficult for their bodies to take care of the infection. Because my little patient doesnt have chronic ear infections, I didnt feel she would have chronic inflammation in her Eustachian tube.

With some children I may have recommended some Benadryl in addition to the Ibuprofen, but since this little girl did not have a lot of congestion and she doesnt have any allergies, I thought the Ibuprofen would be sufficient.

What Is The Treatment For Aeroplane Ear

Whilst in the plane, the treatment is the same as all the measures described in the prevention section. So, try one or more of the following:

  • Suck on a boiled sweet.
  • Have a drink, ideally through a straw or sports bottle.
  • Yawn or open your mouth widely as if you were yawning.
  • Pinch your nose closed with your fingers and blow through your nose until you feel your ears ‘pop’.
  • For babies, give a dummy to suck, or a drink from a bottle.

If the measures above fail to help, although the pain may be severe, it normally goes quickly. If it does not settle, take painkillers such as paracetamol until it does go. Fluid or mucus sometimes accumulates in the middle ear for a few days after the flight, which may make hearing rather dull for a while. This happens if the Eustachian tube is still blocked, and is more likely if you had a cold before flying. To clear it, you could try one of the measures in the section above. For example, the Valsalva manoeuvre, a decongestant or the balloon which you blow up through your nose . On a flight full of people, blowing up a balloon through your nose might be embarrassing but if your ears are still blocked afterwards you should be able to use it in a less public place!

You should see a doctor if the pain or dulled hearing does not clear within a few days.

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Who Is At Higher Risk For Ear Infections

  • Babies born prematurely.

  • Younger children because they have shorter eustachian tubes.

  • Children who attend daycare because they tend to have more colds.

  • Children with allergies or exposed to cigarette smoke. Smoke can irritate the eustachian tube, making ear infections more likely.

  • Children who were not breastfed. Breastmilk has antibodies that help fight infections.

  • Children who are bottlefed and who swallow milk while lying down. Milk can enter the eustachian tube, which increases the risk for an ear infection.

  • Children of First Nations and Inuit descent.

  • Children with cleft palates.

Stay Awake During Takeoff And Landing

Can I Fly With an Ear Infection?

If youre someone who tends to fall asleep as soon as you board the plane, you might experience more frequent ear pain than your fellow travelers. You dont have to force yourself to stay awake for the duration of your flight, but you should try to do so just while the plane is departing and as you approach your final destination.

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How Do I Know If My Child Has An Ear Infection

Older children will complain of an earache. Younger ones might not say they have an earache, but might:

  • have an unexplained fever,

  • tug or pull at their ears, or

  • have trouble hearing quiet sounds.

Some children have fluid draining from their ear. This fluid could contain germs. The best way to prevent the spread of these germs is to wash your hands well.

Doctors diagnose ear infections by looking at the ear drum with a special light called an otoscope.

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What Causes A Blocked Eustachian Tube

There are several reasons your Eustachian tube may become blocked. Only a local ear, nose and throat doctor can make an accurate diagnosis. However, some of the most common reasons are:

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Is It Safe To Fly With An Ear Infection

You can safely fly in an airplane while traveling with an ear infection. The condition is not life-threatening, nor will your eardrums burst because of the flight. However, you will experience high pain when flying with an ear infection.

People have done this often and have lived to the tale, but it is certainly isnt going to be fun.

A person with an ear infection, especially in the middle ear, will encounter a lot of pain during the flight. However, this is not really enough to prevent the patient from actually flying, as there are ways to help mitigate the problem.

The outside part of the ear that sticks out is the pinna. The ear hole going into your hear is called the external auditory canal. Yeahwe know, this a little high school biology revision. The point is to help wrap your head around what goes on when you have an ear infection.

The eardrum itself seals the outside from the inside. After that, you have the middle ear, which leads down into the Eustachian tube. Off the eardrum, there are three little bones that lead up to the cochlea.

Those who thrived on their biology in high school will remember that the Eustachian tube is a canal that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx, which consists of the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity.All of those elements are connected and play a significant role in determining just how pleasant your plane journey is likely to be.

That is when things like Afrin and Sudafed come in handy. But more on that later.

Don’t Risk A Ruptured Eardrum

Can you fly with an ear infection?

If you are very sick with a cold, the flu, allergies or congestion, you could consider changing your travel plans if possible. Your fellow travelers will appreciate one less sick person spreading germs around the planes cabin, and your illness can cause a blockage in the Eustachian tube, preventing the necessary equalization of pressure. A ruptured eardrum or severe infection can occur which can cause hearing loss or permanent ear damage.

See a hearing healthcare professional if your hearing doesnt return to normal within several days post-flight. If you don’t have a regular hearing healthcare professional, check out our directory to find hearing clinics near you.

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Air Travel With A Toddler With An Ear Infection

Keeping your child awake during takeoff and landing helps equalize ear pressure faster.

Flying with a toddler is no cakewalk, especially when it comes to ear pain. It’s generally considered safe for toddlers to travel by air, but the fluid buildup associated with ear infections can leads to discomfort. As the plane changes altitude, passengers often feel discomfort due to air pressure fluctuations. When your toddler is flying with an ear infection, the Eustachian tube is often unable to open normally to equalize that pressure.

Pain is the most common problem when flying with an ear infection, but a ruptured eardrum is also a possibility. Managing your child’s illness alleviates some of the discomfort to make the flight easier for the entire family.

What Can I Do For My Child

Kids are also going to get these pressure changes in their ears, and there is invariably a baby bawling as the plane starts to descend and they notice their ears start to hurt. And of course you can’t tell a baby to do the Valsalva manoeuvre at this point. It depends a little on the age of the child. Feeding a baby with a bottle often helps, as the sucking and swallowing action will help equalise the pressures for them.

Sucking on a dummy may have the same effect. Avoid boiled sweets in very young children because of the choking risk, but in older kids this may be a remedy which will make you a popular parent.

A drink which has a straw or which is in a sports bottle might also be useful. If your child has a cold and is therefore likely to have more of a problem on the flight, a dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen an hour before landing might make for a more peaceful flight. Some of the measures described above may be helpful, but decongestants are not generally recommended for children.

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Flyings Effect On The Ears

When flying, a popping sensation in the ears signifies a change in pressure. This sensation is caused by pressure changes in the middle ear, an area behind the eardrum of each ear. The middle ear is attached to the back of the throat by the Eustachian tube.

When the cabin pressure changes, the Eustachian tube equalizes the pressure in the middle ear by opening and letting air in or out. When you swallow or yawn, your ears pop. Thats the pressure in your middle ears being adjusted by your Eustachian tubes.

If you dont equalize the pressure, it can build on one side of your eardrum, causing discomfort. This is often temporary, though. Your Eustachian tubes will eventually open and the pressure on both sides of your eardrum will equalize.

When the plane ascends, air pressure decreases, and when it descends, air pressure increases. Flying isnt the only time this happens. Your ear also deals with changes in pressure during other activities, such as scuba diving or hiking to and from higher altitudes.

Keeping your Eustachian tubes open is critical to preventing barotrauma. If you have a severe cold, allergy, or ear infection, you may want to consider rescheduling your air travel. If you cant reschedule, do the following:

  • Take a about an hour before takeoff, then follow the medications usage instructions.
  • Uses a decongestant nasal spray.

Airplanes And Ear Pain In Babies Toddlers And Kids

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For infantswhose Eustachian tubes are much narrower than an adultsthe change in air pressure can be even more excruciating, so a bottle or pacifier is recommended to increase swallowing, especially upon descent.

Older children can suck on a lollipop, drink through a straw or blow bubbles through a straw to relieve ear pain. Before the flight, you can also talk to a pediatrician about the possibility of pain relieving eardrops for use in flight.

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Air Travel Colds And Sinus Infections

Medical Author: Melissa Conrad Stoppler, MD Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

People with severe colds and sinus infections know that air travel can be painful. During a flight, the air pressure in the sinuses and middle ear must equilibrate with the cabin pressure inside the airplane, which changes during ascent and descent. Certain infections and other conditions can cause blockage in the Eustachian tube or in the sinus openings, and this restriction to the flow of air can prevent the equalization, or equilibration, of pressure and result in pain. Examples of conditions blocking the equilibration of air pressure in the ears or sinuses include congestion caused by colds or allergies, middle ear infections, and sinus infections.

Pain is not the only symptom that may occur when the Eustachian tube is blocked. The pressure changes inside the middle ear may sometimes lead to vertigo , tinnitus or hearing loss. In severe cases, rupture of the tympanic membrane may occur.

Most doctors would agree that avoiding flying when you have an active sinus or ear infection is the best way to prevent pain and possible complications, but if flying is a necessity, decongestants can be used in an attempt to overcome some of the blockages to air circulation. Both systemic and topical can be used to treat congestion. Over-the-counter pain relievers can also be used to help control discomfort.

What Do We Recommend

Visit your general practitioner as an ear infection may require medication to treat. Your GP can also provide you with the best advice on whether its safe for you to fly.

If you visit Ear Health and your ear nurse advises that you may have an ear infection, we will likely refer you to a GP for further treatment. All Ear Health clinics have a referral relationship with other local medical professionals such as GPs and, in many cases, ear nose and throat specialists . These referral relationships help provide you with the best possible quality of care for you and your ears.

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How Common Is Airplane Ear

Airplane ear is quite common, but it affects everyone differently. Some may feel pain, while others complain of only slight discomfort . If you have a cold or an ear infection, the symptoms may be even more uncomfortable.

Most people recover quickly from airplane ear once the plane has landed and air pressure has been equalized.

Why Do Your Ears Pop On Planes

Air travel & Ear Infections

The Eustachian tube is a narrow canal about the size of a pencil leadthat connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. Its purpose is to equalize ear pressure, ensuring that the pressure within the middle ear is the same as outside.

Your ears pop when a small bubble of air enters the back of the nose, travels through the Eustachian tube and enters the middle ear. This air is then absorbed by the middle ears lining, equalizing the pressure.

When the pressure isnt equalized, flyers experience pain and, in some cases, temporary hearing loss. This discomfort is common when theres a rapid change in ear pressure, usually resulting from scuba diving, driving through high mountains or flying.

A swollen or blocked Eustachian tube makes it difficult for your ears to equalize pressure. When the tube is blocked, it creates a small vacuum that stretches the eardrum. If the tube remains blocked, fluid collects in an attempt to overcome the vacuum and alleviate pressure.The result is called serous otitis or aero-otitis.

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Can I Get On A Plane With An Ear Infection

Its important to avoid flying when you or your kids have a sinus infection or an ear infection. These conditions can cause the Eustachian tubes to block, which can then rupture. If your ears are getting blocked or are experiencing ear pain, it is important that you avoid flying. It can also cause ear infections if you have an ear infection.

Can Flying Make An Ear Infection Worse

The answer to that question is yes. You see, when you fly, there are significant fluctuations in pressure, that occur in the middle ear. Some doctors will warn again flying under these circumstances because they can cause a rupture of the ear drum, if you have fluid behind the ear or an ear infection.

It will also be extremely uncomfortable and painful more painful than what would ordinarily be experienced when flying.

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Can Airplane Ear Be Prevented

During the flight, it is best to stay awake during the planes takeoff and landing, the time when a persons ears are more susceptible to airplane ear. Chewing gum, eating or drinking during these times will keep the Eustachian tubes more open. Decongestants taken before the flight may help the Eustachian tubes open better when the pressure changes.

What Happens To Your Ears When You Fly

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If youve ever flown before, youve probably experienced your ears popping. This occurs when the eustachian tube, a narrow canal in your ear, equalizes your ear pressure.

It can also happen when driving through high altitudes or scuba diving.

However, when the eustachian tube is blocked, it is unable to appropriately equalize pressure in your ear. This can be caused by colds, ear infections or sinus infections. A childs eustachian tube is more likely to become blocked than an adults due to its smaller size.

If the pressure within your ear builds too much, it can lead to a ruptured eardrumturning your uncomfortable flight into an incredibly painful and dangerous experience.

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What Can Help Ease Ear Pain

These tips can help equalize the air pressure in your child’s ears and prevent or decrease ear pain during air travel. Have your child:

  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids throughout the flight. Drinking a lot is very important. It encourages swallowing, which opens the Eustachian tubes. Also, airplane air is dry, which thickens nasal mucus, making it more likely for the Eustachian tubes to become clogged.
  • Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen about a half hour before takeoffs or landings if you know your child has ear pain when flying.
  • Chew gum or suck on hard candy .
  • Take a bottle or pacifier or breastfeed. If you bottle-feed, make sure your baby is sitting upright while drinking.
  • Yawn frequently.
  • Stay awake for takeoff and landing. During sleep, we don’t swallow as often, so it’s harder to keep the air pressure in the middle ear equalized.
  • Practice a breathing exercise. Older kids and teens can practice this exercise during a flight’s ascent and descent: Breathe in slowly, then gently pinch the tip of the nose and exhale through the nose while closing the mouth. Repeat as necessary.

If your child takes medicines that contain antihistamines or decongestants, talk to your doctor about whether to continue them during the flight.

With a little patience and some simple precautions, though, you can make your next family flight less stressful and more comfortable for both you and your child.

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