7 Tips for Easing Ear Pressure in Your Baby While Flying

Learn how to ease ear pressure when flying for infants with these 7 Tips for Easing Ear Pressure in Your Baby. Discover effective ways to prevent ear pain!

7 Tips for Easing Ear Pressure in Your Baby While Flying
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Flying with infants can be a rewarding experience, but the discomfort caused by changes in air pressure can make the journey challenging. Parents must take proactive measures to ease ear pressure and ensure a more pleasant flight for their little ones. So, how to ease ear pressure when flying for infants? Well, various effective techniques and strategies help alleviate ear pressure in infants during flights. From simple methods like feeding or offering a pacifier to preventive measures and helpful products, This blog provides practical tips to minimize discomfort, reduce fussiness, and make flying a delightful experience for you and your baby. Let's embark on this journey to soar with comfort!

Does flying affect ears? 

Several of us have felt that absurd "ear-pop" sensation when we fly. Especially experienced post-takeoff or when the aircraft descends for landing. For children, particularly infants, it can be a scary experience the first time. However, it is nothing to worry about; the "ear-pop" is a normal part of flying.This pop is harmless and does not harm the ear, its inner workings, or its functionality.

Why do we experience "ear Pop"?

The widely experienced uncomfortable and absurd "ear pop" is related to pressure changes in the air space behind the eardrum (middle section of the ear). Normally the passageway that leads from the middle space of the ear to the back of your throat (eustachian tube) equalizes the air pressure in the middle ear to the outside air pressure by opening and letting atmospheric air reach the middle ear. Usually, the "pop" sound means that the eustachian tubes adjust to the air pressure in the middle section of the ear.This "ear pop" prevents pressure accumulation on one side of the eardrum and prevents pain.

What happens to infants when flying?

how to ease ear pressure when flying for infantsThe eustachian tube is relatively narrow for both ears in kids and infants. Therefore, they may not perform the function of equalising ear pressure with atmospheric pressure. This function remains especially impaired if the tubes are clogged with mucus due to influenza, a common cold infection, an ear infection, or blocked by enlarged or swollen adenoids.This "pop" is not only bound for flights and air crafts. They also may happen when scuba diving, climbing a mountain, or even riding an elevator. The air pressure increases as you go lower and decreases as you go higher. If the eustachian tubes do not equalise this pressure, the high air pressure builds up and pushes on any side of the eardrum. This causes uncomfortable pain. Due to their underdeveloped ear structure, babies and children often struggle to equalise pressure, leading to discomfort and pain during flights. This explains why many infants cry during the descent when cabin pressure rises. Fortunately, this discomfort is temporary and typically subsides within a few minutes as the eustachian tubes open up, allowing pressure to equalise on both sides of the eardrums.It's important to note that while this pain doesn't have lasting effects on children, those with ear infections should consider postponing air travel until the infection clears. This precaution helps avoid increased ear pain and potential complications like eardrum rupture or tear. For children who have undergone ear tube surgery, the presence of tubes facilitates easier air pressure equalization.

Are infants more prone to earaches?

Infants and children may be more prone to earaches on planes. This may be due to several issues, which may include:
  • An inability to swallow or yawn on command (voluntarily)
  • More frequent upper respiratory tract infections
  • More tissue in the Adenoids
  • Eustachian Tubes are straight and narrow rather than curved like in adults, making drainage of pressure buildup difficult.
Infants and toddlers also have anatomically small eustachian tubes, a plane risk factor. To help a child with "airplane ears," or earaches relating to flights, a parent or present caregiver can take the following steps:
  • Avoid traveling when the child is sick or provide them with plenty of fluids before and during the flight.
  • When they feel fullness in their ear when taking off or landing, give a baby bottle and the older child juice or water to drink.
  • Wake up sleeping child or baby during takeoff and landings.
  • Use a bulb syringe to help clear congestion.
  • Treat cold symptoms following a health professional's advice.
Also Read: How To Unblock Ears When Sick?

How to ease ear pressure when flying for infants?

There are a few tips that can help equalize the air pressure in your child's ears and prevent or decrease ear pain during air travel. 

1. Drinking plenty of non-caffeinated fluids:

Have your child drink plenty of fluids throughout the flight. The fluid must be non-caffeinated. Water is the best option. Drinking a lot is very important. It encourages swallowing, which is an action that opens the Eustachian tubes. Also, airplane air is dry, which tends to thicken nasal mucus, making it more likely for the Eustachian tubes to become clogged.

2. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen:

About a half hour before takeoffs or landings, give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen (keeping in mind the correct dosage) if you know your child has ear pain when flying. This will at least relieve the child of the pain.

3. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy:

 Practice this only if your child is over 3 years old so that there is no choking hazard that the infant is exposed to. Chewing gum or sucking on hard candy will initiate their swallowing reflex. They will keep swallowing the syrup/juice periodically, helping the eustachian tubes carry out their pressure-equalizing function.Also Read: 8 Best Immune Booster For Kids: View Available Products

4. Giving a bottle or pacifier for breastfeeding: 

If you bottle-feed, make sure your baby is sitting upright while drinking. The sucking motion helps open the Eustachian tubes, allowing air to flow and equalize pressure in the ears. By providing your child with a bottle, pacifier, or breastfeeding, you encourage them to swallow, which helps regulate the pressure changes. This can significantly reduce discomfort and minimize the chances of your child experiencing ear pain. Also Read: When and How to Stop Breastfeeding?

5. Yawn frequently: 

Yawning frequently can be a helpful technique to ease a child's discomfort during a flight. Yawning helps equalize the pressure in the ears and can provide relief. Encouraging your child to yawn by gently yawning yourself or making funny faces can help stimulate their yawning reflex. 

6. Stay awake for takeoff and landing:

During sleep, we don't swallow as often, so keeping the air pressure in the middle ear equalized is harder. Staying awake for takeoff and landing can be beneficial in helping your child ease ear pressure during a flight. When awake, your child is more likely to swallow, yawn, or perform other actions that can help equalize the pressure in their ears. Engage your child in activities such as talking, singing, or playing gentle games to keep them alert and active during these critical phases of the flight. By staying awake, your child can naturally respond to the changes in air pressure, reducing the discomfort and potential pain associated with ear pressure. Also Read: Can In-ear Headphones Cause Infection? Learn Tips for Safe Usage

7. Practice breathing exercises: 

Older kids and teens can practice breathing exercises during a flight's ascent and descent. The exercises may include:
  • Breathing slowly.
  • Gently pinching the tip of the nose.
  • Trying to exhale through the nose while closing the mouth.
It can be safely repeated as necessary.

Are any changes in medication required to avoid earache while flying?

Suppose the child or infant consumes medicines that contain antihistamines (blood thinners) or decongestants (in case they are suffering from a congested airway due to infection). In that case, it is best to consult your healthcare professional about continuing these medications.In certain rare cases, your child may continue to complain of ear pain for longer periods (up to several hours after the plane has taken off and landed). You can give your child any pain-relieving medication for this duration by following the instructions on the packaging box. In case the pain continues for more than several hours, it is recommended that you contact your healthcare professional or any relevant healthcare professional in attendance for advice and consultation.

When to consult a doctor?

Consider speaking with a healthcare professional if your toddler or infant is experiencing more pain in their ears than is usual. This could signify a sinus infection, ear infection, or other ear issues.Ear pain may be intrinsic or start in the ear, primary pain. Or it can be due to a previously referred condition, which refers to secondary pain. Secondary ear pain occurs due to various nerve connections between the ears and other areas of the neck and head.Possible underlying causes may include:You may consult a doctor if you suspect an underlying health condition may be causing your child's earache or pain. 

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 Conclusion -

Easing ear pressure in infants during flights is crucial for their comfort and well-being. By implementing the techniques and strategies discussed in this blog post, you can help minimize discomfort and ensure a more pleasant flying experience for your little one. From encouraging yawning and offering bottles or pacifiers to staying awake during takeoff and landing, these methods can effectively alleviate ear pressure and reduce the chances of ear pain. Remember to be prepared, stay attentive to your child's needs, and create a soothing environment during the flight. Also Read: How to Use Essential Oils for Ear Infection?