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more about Barotitis

Ear pain from plane travel

  • The middle ear is a small compact space inside the eardrum, with a "pressure release valve" (leading to the sinuses) called the eustachian tube.  Whenever the middle ear is subjected to rapid changes in air pressure due to depressurization or increased pressure (like what happens to passengers on airplane takeoff or landing), it seeks to adjust to these changes by expanding and contracting.  Normally, the Eustachian tube is the organ responsible for maintaining equilibrium.
  • In the case of sinus infection, Viral Rhinitis (common cold), or Allergic Rhinitis, the Eustachian tube becomes inflamed and narrowed, causing a buildup of pressure inside the middle ear.  Inflammation in the ear due to atmospheric pressure changes is called, literally, barotitis.

  • Ear pain on ascent or descent in an airplane
  • Ear popping on ascent or descent in an airplane

  • Swallowing (either dry or drinking a liquid) gives the most effective immediate relief.
  • Chewing gum seems to help only if it is begun before the symptoms have started (overall, swallowing is much more effective)
  • Pseudoephedrine 45 minutes before a plane ride
  • Proper treatment of Allergic Rhinitis (e.g., antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays)
  • Avoid sleeping on descent

  • Perforated (punctured) ear drum

  • Predisposing Factors (i.e., conditions that close off the Eustachian tube)
    1. Viral Rhinitis (common cold) -- runny nose, Nasal Congestion
    2. Sinusitis -- pain over the cheeks, yellow or green sinus drainage
    3. Allergic Rhinitis ("Hay fever") -- runny nose, watery or white nasal discharge

more about Barotitis

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