3 mistakes which you can make before travelling
- Sleeping: Sleeping during takeoff and landing is harmful because one need to voluntarily do swallowing movements, yawning or chew on a gum or chocolates to open up the Eustachian tube (tube connecting the back of the nose and the ear) during pressure changes.
- Travelling with severe cold: The Eustachian tube being in continuity with the nasal lining, any nasal cold affects the tube as well and since it is already blocked with secretions and oedema, pressure equalising function doesn't happen effectively leading to ear problems.
- Placing occlusive earplugs: Placing a cotton or an occlusive earplug is not advised because it doesn't help and sometimes it can even cause external ear barotrauma.
Avoid air travel during an acute bout of cold or if unavoidable, treat the cold effectively with oral and nasal decongestants. Nasal allergy to be treated with inhaled steroid spray. Meet the ent specialist if ear block persists. Frequent flyers might need an evaluation of the function of the Eustachian tube and nasal endoscopy to correct possible septal deviations in the nose. Very rarely, a small nick in the eardrum (myringotomy) is done so that problems of middle ear equalisation need not occur. Flying right after scuba diving also leads to middle ear barotrauma.
Conclusion: Be aware of the physiology of our human mechanism to equalise the pressure difference during ascent and descent of flight travel so that air travel continues to be a pleasurable one.