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How to Prevent Ear and Head Congestion on a Plane
Like many people, I recently had a cold that turned into an upper respiratory infection. Then I had nasty mucous coming out of my nose, and at times, it was difficult to breathe. Fortunately, when I travel, I carry a mini pharmacy (see this past tip). But on my flight to and from Grand Cayman last week, I’m so glad I had nose drops and a decongestant because I think my head would have exploded without them. I took them both about an hour before the flight and I still had terrible ear aches on descent. I can’t even imagine what it would have been like if I hadn’t had these things.

Just in case, and especially if you’re sick, be sure to pack a decongestant and nose drops in your carry-on and have them handy. Natalie chews gum and I drink water to help relieve pressure on a plane, and we both try to yawn as much as possible.

Do you have a hard time with your ears on takeoff and descent? What techniques do you use?



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14 Comments On "Travel Tip of the Day: How to Prevent Ear and Head Congestion on a Plane"
  1. Alexa|

    Hi Johnny! I get horrible ear aches and have found that “ear Plane” a ear plug you can find at drug stores really help!

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Second person that loves them! Thanks for the advice

    2. Lonn Wolf|

      I have been saved much agony by the ear plane plugs. Be advised they are different from regular ear plugs and cost about $5 a pair and are supposed to last one round trip. I have used mine for at least a half dozen trips before switching to a new pair.

  2. Stefani B|
    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Good to know! Thanks

  3. Helen|

    I also use ear planes from CVS or Walgreens. I don’t travel without them and use them on take off and descend.

    1. Taksim|

      I used them too and they are really great.

  4. tom|

    When in air Force pilot training just over 1 million years ago we were taught the Valsalva maneuver.

    I find It is best use as decent begins and then periodically throughout decent. The effect is wonderful and procedure safe.

    The Valsalva maneuver is performed by moderately forceful attempted exhalation against a closed airway, usually done by closing one’s mouth, pinching one’s nose shut while pressing out as if blowing up a balloon.

    1. Johnny Jet
      Johnny Jet|

      Good to know! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Sue|

    A few years ago when I was flying to the Bahamas I had such horrible pain in my head when we were landing I thought my head was going to explode. Since that experience whenever I fly I use a decongestant nasal spray 1/2 hour to 1 hour before my flight. I haven’t had the problem since.

  6. Barbara|

    I have tried ear plugs from the Chemist and they do not work, I only get the severe pain on decent so I do try to only fly direct as doing two decents = burst ear drum. Has any one got a remedy desperate to fly overseas and see the world. Thank you.

  7. Lyn|

    I have sensitive ears & here is the only thing that works for me:
    I use a sinus spray (zicam intense sinus relief) before take off. During ascent & descent, I hold hand warmers over my ears. I put the hand warmers in each of a pair of clean socks so they are not too hot. It’s a bit cumbersome but it’s the only thing that I have tried that helps me!

  8. Nvjim|

    First spray nose with a saline nasal spray..that moistens the inside of the nose and makes the decongestant be absorbed better.
    Wait 5 minutes.
    Then spray decongestant.
    Here is the kicker.
    Then put some Neosporin on your pinkie and work it up into your nose. Wait a few minutes after you apply the neosporin since the petroleum jelly acts as a carrier for the medical dosage and it will run when it warms up. An added benefit …the residual jelly keep the nose moist.
    I travel 35 weeks a year…worldwide and in States…often 3 flights in a day. This has reduced colds I do get and lessened significantly the number I get.

  9. Kairi Gainsborough|

    I’ve always felt uncomfortable flying because of the change in pressure on my sinuses, but I didn’t know that I could take nose drops to prevent it. This is great news, because I will be flying on my vacation next month, and I was not looking forward to the head aches. I’ll be sure to try taking a decongestant and some nasal spray before our flight boards. Thanks for sharing your tips!

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