Avoiding Inflight Pains: It’s All in Your Head


Baby ear

Aircraft cabins are of course pressurised to shield passengers from changes in air pressure at extremely high altitudes, but on occasion some people may still feel a bit of these changes, as the middle ear (scientifically known as the Eustachian tube) is particularly sensitive to this. 

That sensation may result in a bit of discomfort, sometimes accompanied by a temporary loss of hearing. But rest assure, it’s nothing to worry about. And there are tricks to can use to avoid ear discomfort on a flight, such as:

  • Chewing gum or sucking on a sweet, particularly during take-off and landing, which is when the greatest changes in pressure occur. Swallowing activated the muscles in charge of opening the Eustachian tube, which balances pressure.  
  • Yawning, which is another way of activating the muscles that open the Eustachian tube.
  • Avoid sleeping during landing, as swallowing occurs less frequently during sleep.

Another type of discomfort that can occurring during a flight is what is known as an airplane headaches. This is a regular pain on one side of the head, close to the eyes. It is usually a brief yet intense pain (not normally lasting more than half an hour). The pain can be due to a variation in pressure in the nasal sinuses, caused by the changes in pressure occurring in the cabin, which are more abrupt during take-off and landing.

For this reason, passengers with a cold or sinus infection are more likely to suffer this kind of headache. If you have a cold, you can prevent the headache by using any type of nasal vasoconstrictor before take-off, as well as staying well hydrated. Passengers who frequently suffer from any kind of headache are also more likely to develop this affliction.


image | casequin