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How can I reduce the effects of flying on my ears?


You can do a number of things to reduce the effects of flying on your ears. Most of these help to help keep your Eustachian tube open:

  • The Eustachian tube does not open well when you are sleeping. Make sure you are awake before the plane begins its descent, which may start up to an hour before it lands
  • Yawn, chew gum or suck on a hard sweet to encourage your Eustachian tube to open
  • Keep swallowing water or another drink (not alcohol). Do this every 15 to 30 seconds if you need to. If this does not help, try the 'Valsalva manoeuvre'. Pinch your nose between your finger and thumb, and gently blow air down it with your mouth closed, without releasing the air. If you hear or feel air going into your ears, your Eustachian tube is working well
  • Make sure you are not dehydrated and that you have had plenty to drink. Do not drink alcohol
  • Flying may be uncomfortable if you have a cold or other infection around the nose and throat. This can make the lining of the Eustachian tube swollen so it gets blocked more easily. If you must travel, ask your GP or pharmacist for advice about decongestants to reduce inflammation and relieve the blocked sensation. Many GPs recommend you use a decongestant spray about 20 minutes before you land. It is important not to use the spray for more than five days consecutively
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