Can You Fly With an Ear Infection?

Flying can be stressful even when you’re feeling your best, so having ear pain or an ear infection can make the experience worse. If you have a trip coming up and you’re dealing with an ear infection, you need to know how the flight might affect you. Close conditions, air pressure changes and medications can influence your flight ability.

Let’s take a look at how flying affects your ears and why you might need to stay home if you have an ear infection.

What Are “Airplane Ears?”

“Plane ears” is a term used for the discomfort people experience in their ears while flying. Your ears each have a tube, the Eustachian tube, that connects your sinuses to your middle ear. It helps balance pressure, protect your ear and drain fluids. While you don’t normally feel the inside of your ears in your everyday life, changes in pressure — like going up in the sky — can create discomfort in your Eustachian tube.

What Causes Ear Pain During Flying?

“Airplane ear” is also used to describe ear barotrauma, which is ear damage caused by the air pressure difference between the middle and outer ear. When airplanes take off or land, the cabin’s air pressure changes rapidly, creating a pressure difference between the outer and middle ear.

While your ear usually adjusts to the pressure change, sometimes it does not. If your Eustachian tube is blocked or working incorrectly, the pressure cannot equalize. This issue leads to ear pain, making flying uncomfortable. Depending on how the pressure affects your ears, you might experience pain or long-term ear damage. Additionally, allergies, sinus infections and colds can prevent pressure equalization, increasing your chances of in-flight ear pain.

What Is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection is caused by an inflammation in the middle ear or Eustachian tube. Ear infections are the result of bacteria or a virus and can often occur with allergies, sinus infections, colds or respiratory infections. The middle ear gets blocked, leading to fluid build up behind the ear drum. If you have an ear infection, you’ll often experience swelling, pain, poor hearing, fever and fluid drainage.

Can You Fly With an Ear Infection?

You should avoid flying with an ear infection. Since ear infections prevent proper ear function, you risk increased discomfort and complications while flying. Here are some of the potential risks flying with an ear infection can lead to:

  1. Increased pain: Ear infections can make your middle ear swollen or blocked, making the pressure difference worse and leading to more pain. You might experience extreme discomfort throughout the flight with no relief.
  2. Complication risks: If the pressure changes are too extreme, your eardrum can rupture. A ruptured eardrum is painful and can lead to more complications while fighting off your infection, including permanent damage.
  3. Reduced healing: With additional stress on your ear from flying and potential complications, it might take longer to recover from your ear infection.

Can You Fly With an Ear Infection on Antibiotics?

Ear infections usually clear up in three days, but treatment with antibiotics can make recovery easier. depending on the type of infection you have. If you’ve been given antibiotics for your ear infection, ask your doctor about ear travel. Antibiotics might make it easier to fly with an ear infection, reducing pressure-equalizing issues.

Can You Travel With an Ear Infection?

While air travel is not recommended when you have an ear infection, you can travel using other forms of transportation. Car, train and boat travel are all options when you have an ear infection. These methods have no significant air pressure changes, making them much more comfortable. However, you might be more likely to feel motion sickness while traveling since ear infections can affect your sense of balance.

It’s important to get rest while fighting off an infection. If you have to travel with an ear infection, avoid planes and make sure you’re comfortable. Pack essential medications, stay hydrated and travel with someone else to ensure you travel comfortably. Always consult your health care professional and follow their recommendations before traveling with an ear infection.

How to Prevent Ears From Hurting on Planes

While you should avoid flying with an inner ear infection, many people still experience ear pain while flying when they’re healthy. Sensitivity to the rapid air pressure changes is common — many people deal with issues like lack of ear popping while they fly. Here are some strategies you can use to reduce ear discomfort on the plane:

  1. Yawning and swallowing: Yawning and swallowing can help you pop your ears and even out the pressure. You can yawn, swallow, chew gum, sip water or suck on candy to try and get your ears to pop while flying. This might help reduce your discomfort.
  2. Medication: Taking antihistamines or decongestants before your flight can help clear up nose and ear congestion, making it easier for your body to equalize the pressure. Talk to your health care professional before using medication to ensure it’s safe to take.
  3. Earplugs: Filtered earplugs designed for flying might also help with pressure. These earplugs are made to help your ears gradually regulate air pressure changes, reducing flight discomfort.
  4. Different maneuvers: You can do some small maneuvers to try popping your ears. To do the Valsalva maneuver, pinch your nostrils shut, close your mouth and gently blow air. The Toynbee maneuver can have the same effect — close your mouth, pinch your nostrils shut and swallow. Finally, you can also try placing your tongue in the back of your throat and opening your jaw fully, which is the Frenzel maneuver. Be careful in attempting any of these techniques, as doing them too harshly could case damage.

Why Trust Us?

REVA is an industry leader in air ambulance services. Our expert team has completed over 30,000 flights in 70 countries. We’re ready 24/7, 365 days a year, to help you get the medical transport services you need. As receivers of ARGUS’ Platinum Designation, you can count on us to put safety, quality and compassion into every job.

When you fly with REVA, you fly with comprehensive care. We handle all aspects of transportation, coordinating documents, crews and comfort. We strive to deliver a seamless, stress-free experience for everyone who flies with us. With a highly qualified medical team, a global reach and individualized care, you can count on REVA. Choose us for trustworthy, dependable air ambulance services.

Air Ambulance Services From REVA

If you’re dealing with severe ear pain or a medical emergency, let REVA fly you to your facility safely.

Experience unmatched care and convenience with our global air ambulance services. From the moment you contact us, REVA will handle your clinical and travel documentation, medical and flight crews and ground transportation. Our three-step process delivers a comprehensive medical experience as you get to your next destination.

Plus, we manage insurance coverage, necessary documents and the reimbursement process. Our expert team will make the flight process as smooth as possible.

Get attentive, fast air and ground transportation from REVA. Contact us today for your free air ambulance quote! Trust REVA to deliver industry-leading care when you need it most.