Can I Fly With an Ear Infection?

As if flying weren’t enough of a pain, it’s stressful dealing with delayed flights, long security lines and lost luggage, not to mention the passenger beside you who always hogs the arm rest. Add an ear infection and your misery is compounded.

We all know that the takeoff, landing and pressurized cabin makes your ears uncomfortable, but what if you have an infection?

First, to fully understand how altitude affects your ears, it helps to know what normally happens when you’re at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet.

Why do your ears pop on planes?

The Eustachian tube is a narrow canal, about the size of a pencil lead that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. Its purpose is to equalize ear pressure, ensuring that the pressure within the middle ear is the same as outside.

Your ears pop when a small bubble of air enters the back of the nose, travels through the Eustachian tube and enters the middle ear. This air is then absorbed by the middle ear’s lining, equalizing the pressure.

When the pressure isn’t equalized, flyers experience pain and, in some cases, temporary hearing loss. This discomfort is common when there’s a rapid change in ear pressure, usually resulting from scuba diving, driving through high mountains of flying.

A swollen or blocked Eustachian tube makes it difficult for your ears to equalize pressure. When the tube is blocked, it creates a small vacuum that stretches the eardrum. If the tube remains blocked, fluid collects in an attempt to overcome the vacuum and alleviate pressure.

What causes a blocked Eustachian tube?

There are several reasons your Eustachian tube may become blocked. Only a local ear, nose and throat can make an accurate diagnosis. However, some of the most common reasons are Colds, sinus infections, nasal allergies, nasal blockage, ear inections.


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