The People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Handle Ear Pain During Flights

Using a nasal decongestant and steroid spray before and during airplane travel can help reduce ear pain during flights; pressure-regulating ear plugs help.
Flight travel ear ear pain during flights

At vacation time, we often hear from people who find flying challenging because of severe ear pain during flights. This can turn a European trip or even a visit to relatives across the country into agony.

Fortunately, there are several ways to avoid ear pain during flights, especially during descent. This reader has had good experience with a rather complex regimen.

Q. I have read questions about painful ears during flights. This was a severe problem for me.

An ENT Doctor’s Recommendation for Ear Pain During Flights

I now follow this regimen an ENT doctor gave me and it works. Ten days before flying I start using Nasacort nasal spray twice a day. I take Benadryl an hour before the flight and use Afrin spray 30 minutes before taking off (2 sprays per nostril).

I also use EarPlanes ear plugs and chew gum during the flight. I use Afrin spray (2 squirts in each nostril) when the pilot announces that we will be landing (or 20 minutes before landing).

This is a lot of stuff, but it has kept me traveling. Without it, I’d have to stay home.

A. Wow! That is an impressive treatment program. Others may benefit.

Some folks may not be familiar with EarPlanes ear plugs, which are designed expressly for this purpose. They are silicone earplugs with a special pressure-regulating filter to moderate the rapid increase in pressure as the plane descends. They can be purchased in airport stores and online.

Leslie said,

“I used EarPlanes after a bout with vertigo that made me very nervous about a cross-country flight. They weren’t super-comfortable, but they worked really well. I didn’t have any of the usual pressure and ear-popping that I normally associate with flying.”


Rate this article
4.5- 15 ratings

Today's Newsletter Reading List

    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.” .
    Tired of the ads on our website?

    Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

    Browse our website ad-free
    Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

    We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.

    Showing 8 comments
    Add your comment

    The Earplanes are available at Walmart and most drug stores. The house brand is usually $1 cheaper than the name brand. I just wash them after a trip and reuse them repeatedly. I think the idea about only using a few times is to get people to buy more of them.

    I take a half of benadryl when the flight begins. The benadryl kicks in by the time of descent. If I still have pressure, I use a natural nose spray, hold my nose and blow. Just taking the benadryl works the majority of the time.

    I fly a lot. I do not follow the regimen given above, but I do find that taking an antihistimine an hour prior to the flight alleviates any potential ear pain.

    I fly a lot. I don’t need such a regimen as the one described, but I do find that an antihistimine taken an hour prior to the flight will keep my ears from hurting.

    I, too, suffered terribly while flying. I took pseudephedrine and used nasal sprays with little relief. When I discovered EarPlanes I was excited at first but they are uncomfortable, can only be used twice and don’t always work for me. I found another brand called Flitemates which are much more comfortable and can be used up to 5 times. They have given me such relief that I don’t have to use the nasal spray. I highly recommend them.

    I have used EarPlanes for many years now, since I lost hearing in one ear after a flight. Hearing returned after a week, but it was very disconcerting. I have used generic plugs and name brand and either works for me. Put them in before takeoff and before landing and don’t remove them until at level altitude in flight or on the ground. I can hear fine with them in.

    I have used ear planes for years, they may help a little but I still have terrible pain every time a plane descends

    too much medicine.. I just use nalcrom(powder) 30 minutes before landing. It stops ear popping and negative effects of sensitive baroreceptors.

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^