How sucky is flying going to be with my bum ear?
April 4, 2009 7:07 PM   Subscribe

Have had barotitis in one ear (basically ear drum is sucked in and there's fluid built up behind it) since a Thursday afternoon flight. Flying home tomorrow. Anyone flown with this? Does it hurt a lot/suck?

I have had this before, with an ear infection to go with it, but that time it happened on my return flight, so I didn't have to go on a plane again with my ear messed up.
I have seen a doctor who offered to write me a note to see if the airline would let me take a later flight, but that isn't an option. He said it would be safe to fly, but it may be really unpleasant. Right now I don't have much pain, but I have really muffled hearing/ear ringing and it hasn't improved much in the past 2 days. I fly out early in the morning, with one long flight, and one short flight, and am nervous about how it's going to go. Note: I've been trying the pop your ears while plugging your nose thing (dr's suggestion also) with little improvement, so no use in suggesting that. The doctor said that this will probably not get completely better for at least a week. I usually have severe ear pain when I fly, but I want to be prepared (he suggested 600 mg of ibuprofen before the flight, and OTC nasal decongestant spray during).
posted by fructose to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've flown with stuffed-up ears due to nasty head cold, and it does really suck. Every change in pressure caused searing pain in my ears, like having an ice pick shoved in there. I was also in pain for days afterward. However, taking Sudafed (real pseudoephedrine) can help somewhat. Is that an option?
posted by cabingirl at 7:29 PM on April 4, 2009

It hurts a lot until your eardrum blows, then it's the most bless├Ęd relief. This has happened to me twice. It feels like someone sticking a needle in your upper jaw - with a piledriver. I now have most of the hearing back in my ear.

Gum (mentholated, if you can get it) and Vick's inhaler might be able to stave it off. Descent and landing is the part you want to worry about.
posted by scruss at 8:08 PM on April 4, 2009

If you can take Sudafed (the real stuff) or Mucinex-D (with pseudoephedrine), take that, and also use a 12-hour maximum strength nasal decongestant. When you use the nasal decongestant, spray it in your nostril then immediately lean your head back and tilt your head slightly toward the side that you just sprayed in (for left nostril, tilt head back and to the left). This will get the decongestant spray back towards your eustachian tubes, which are probably inflamed and causing your ear to be unable to regulate pressure. Repeat for each side, even if you are not congested on that side.

Then go get some EarPlanes. They will help while you fly. Follow the package directions - put them in while you're taxiing before takeoff and take them out after landing. They should help, but since your ear is already bad you will probably still have some pain.

Bring something like gum or hard candy to chew/suck on during ascent and especially descent. Even though the valsalva maneuver (the pinching your nose and blowing thing) isn't working for you, continually swallowing and yawning during ascent and descent should relieve some of the pressure. I've also found that massaging my face right in front of my tragus can help with the pain, but not much.

Good luck. I have flown with congestion and had this happen several times and it sucks.
posted by bedhead at 8:14 PM on April 4, 2009

The approach here is:

1. Real Sudafed behind the pharmacy counter, not the crappy Sudafed PE (everyone involved in instigating that change should be shot)
2. Chewing gum during the flight.
3. Tons of water all the time.

Personally I've flown with a cold while stuffed up but didn't encounter any severe pain, but did arrive temporarily deaf. It did get better though. The EarPlanes idea is something I would try as long as it can keep a seal.
posted by crapmatic at 8:23 PM on April 4, 2009

I've had two friends rupture an eardrum when flying with bad congestion/ears wouldn't clear.
Can you postpone your trip?
posted by j at 8:34 PM on April 4, 2009

absolutely get some earplanes. some little kiosk at the airport will certainly have them if you don't have time to stop off at a drug store first.

i always have mild ear pain when flying, and when i last flew with a sinus infection, the ear planes were life savers. still some pain, but nowhere as near as bad as in the past under similar circumstances.

i'd combine the earplanes with the pseudoephedrine as suggested above.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:15 PM on April 4, 2009

I've burst my eardrums on a flight before and I'll second the absolute blessed relief that comes afterwards.

Upvote for the earplanes with the decongestants kept behind the counter. Flying is miserable with sinus problems, here's to hoping some of the suggestions helpful.
posted by variella at 9:26 AM on April 5, 2009

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