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How To Ease the Pain of Ear Infections Especially During Airplane Descent

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Q. I have had ear infections my entire life. I'm 30 and I still get two to four ear infections every year.

I flew to Florida when I was 5 years old and my ear drum burst in air causing excruciating pain. I flew for the last time when I was 11 years old and I screamed the entire flight to just let me die.

I am DEATHLY afraid to try flying again. I don't want my fiancée to see how bad I am when that pain happens. HELP!

A. Over the decades we have heard from many people who have trouble dealing with ear pain, especially while flying. Allergies, sinusitis and ear infections can make this problem worse.

Over 20 years ago we heard from a flight attendant who would give suffering passengers Styrofoam cups with hot paper towels inside. The heat helped equalize the pressure and relieve the pain. Here are some stories:

"My daughter had this problem and it was agonizing. Then a passenger sitting next to me on a flight told me about 'hot cups.'

"The stewardess was very familiar with hot cups. These are Styrofoam coffee cups with a paper towel in the bottom and a small amount of very hot water poured into the cup. Then the cups are held over the ears. The heat helps the pressure stabilize and eases the pain. It worked wonderfully!"


"About 4 years ago I was introduced to the cups with hot towels by a flight attendant when we had the privilege of riding in first class. What a miracle! I have flown a few times since then and keep those same cups for each flight.

"No other attendant has helped but my husband dampens my washcloths (brought from home) in as warm water as he can get from the bathroom sink on the plane. Even if the water is warm I get enough relief to make the descent survivable."


"I had airplane ears until I started using Nasacort daily. My ears would REALLY hurt and I'd hear all this squealing. When we went to Acapulco a few years ago, it was the second day before I could even hear again.

"But my flight attendant friend gave me a tip. She said on her planes they would take coffee cups and put wet paper towels in them. They would then heat them in the microwave and bring them to you. You hold a cup tightly over each ear, sealing it up. The hot vapor opens your ears every time!

"If they are reluctant to fix the cups, insist. My husband's boss actually ended up with a punctured eardrum one time from having to fly while he had a cold."


Insisting is not likely to work these days. Most flight attendants are so busy, especially during descent, that it is unlikely they will be able to assist. What's more, airlines are probably so afraid of legal liability that they probably would not allow the flight attendant to supply Styrofoam cups with hot water dripping from the paper towel.

There is an alternative, though. A product called Ear Ease (they do advertise in our electronic newsletter) allows for hot water to be sealed inside plastic cups. This way you get the benefits of the heat without the risks of hot water burns.

Here is a link to Ear Ease: www.EarEase.com. You may also find that using this product when you have an ear infection helps relieve the discomfort. Doctors have become somewhat reluctant to prescribe antibiotics for routine ear infections, but they have little to offer to ease the pain. EarEase may be helpful.

Please let us know how you make out.

 

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I always have a pack of gum with me and begin chewing before ascent and descent. This has never failed me. Before I discovered this remedy I had uncomfortable ears. Also, for babies the parents should always have a bottle for them to drink from during these times which relieves the pressure on their ears due to the sucking motion of the jaws.

I've had problems when flying but my pain is over my eyebrow, but only on one side of my face, and it feels like someone is stabbing me in that area. VERY PAINFUL. First time it happened they slowed the airplane descending and got me the styrofoam cup with hot towel and placed over my eye. The pain slowly eased.
Glad to know this remedy works for ear aches too.

I too had wonderful results with the Styrofoam cups and heated paper towels given to me by the flight attendant. However, the last time I flew and asked for them when the plane started descending, I was told that the airlines were not allowing that to be done any longer because of the possibility of causing damage to a passenger's ear drum. On the next flight, just before the plane started its descent, I used Afrin spray in my nose, and I experienced no discomfort upon descending.

My ears get blocked from my allergies. I wonder how well the EarEase would work for allergy ear symptoms.

I tried this for my 8 year old daughter tonight and it worked! She has an ear infection and couldn't sleep. I tried putting some alcohol drops in first but that didn't help. I then tried this. I used hot tap water in a plastic cup. I held it to her head as she leaned her ear over and then took it away a minute later. She was stunned when the pain went away. Thank you.

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