The People's Perspective on Medicine

A Whiff of Eucalyptus for Ear Pain When Flying

Sniffing essential oil of eucalyptus can ease congestion, open blocked nasal passages and prevent ear pain when flying.

So many people dread flying because descending makes their ears hurt terribly. This is especially true for small children (and probably explains why they often start crying or screaming on the descent). It is also a problem for many grown people who don’t feel free to express their discomfort so loudly. This reader has found an intriguing remedy:

Q. I read with interest your advice to those with ear pain when flying. I found a wonderful remedy for this problem. The pain used to feel like knives in my ears and lasted for hours after a flight was over.

Eucalyptus Oil for Ear Pain When Flying:

When I flew to Australia on Qantas Airways, they routinely offered a warm towel with the aroma of eucalyptus oil for flyers with ear pain. I used it and had total relief.

Since then, I take a small bottle of eucalyptus oil with me on flights, and if I have pain, I open it and smell the eucalyptus oil. The pain vanishes.

I wish that airlines in the US would offer this remedy for flyers.

A. This is an intriguing idea. Eucalyptus is found in many cough drops and is an ingredient in Vicks VapoRub. It has a distinctive aroma.

One study found that a mixture of eucalyptus and other essential oils was found beneficial for nasal congestion (American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy, May-June, 2014).

Check with TSA:

Although you have managed to take your tiny bottle of eucalyptus oil with you, it’s not clear whether other passengers would be allowed to pass through airport security with a bottle of eucalyptus oil.

We suggest checking with TSA before flying. It might be feasible to put some on a few cotton balls and put them inside a plastic bag.

Another option would be a trial-size tin of Vicks. Although it would have to go into the quart bag with liquids and gels, it is so small that it should not cause consternation.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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Eucalyptus oil sounds like a good idea.

I discovered 42 years ago when traveling by air with my Babies to make sure that I had a bottle of something for them to drink upon ascending & descending. No cries of pain & discomfort!! I thus made sure that I always brought or had Flight Attendant provide me with some liquid for descent. (water, coke, etc) Took sips periodically upon descent.

Never had another episode of ear pain or discomfort. (1/2 a Pseudaphed (spelling?) also works, but I am too sensitive. It makes me hyper.

What stores do you find eucalyptus?

You can buy a small Vicks Inhaler and use when descending on a flight. This would eliminate bringing a small bottle of Eucalyptus oil which TSA would take away.

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