Traveling Problems: When Ears Won’t Pop

Mar 31, 2012

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We have all heard the babies who cry upon descent when their ears start hurting on the airplane.  It can happen on take-off too, but the descent is often the roughest part.  In fact, having a baby with ears that hurt during the flight is one of the number one concerns of many traveling families.  That is why it is highly recommended to have the baby drinking from a bottle, from a sippy cup, nursing, etc on both takeoff and landing.  The sucking can help with getting their ears to pop.  If your little one has a cold or other sinus issues, then the risk of ear problems while traveling greatly increases.

However, this time it was thankfully not my kiddo who had ear problems on the flight, it was me.  As you may know, Little C and I traveled to Disneyland last weekend, which I plan to start writing about very soon.  You may also have noticed me mention in some of my recent posts that I was sick before we went on the trip, was sick on the trip, and have continued to be sick since we got home.  My kiddo blessed me with bringing home some upper-respiratory crud from daycare last week, and it just isn’t going away quickly.  I hate being sick, hate going to doctors, hate medicine, etc, so I just do my best to pretend I am not sick (like moms really have any other alternative), and continue on with life.  That was all well and good until we were landing back in Texas after our time in California.

On descent the pressure in my ears got super intense.  I totally wanted to be one of those crying babies because it seriously hurt and just kept getting worse and worse.  Of course, I couldn’t really focus on that too much since I had to attend to my own little one, but it was not fun at all.  Once we landed, I kept trying to get my ears to pop, but they wouldn’t.  I figured I would reluctantly take some medicine for my respiratory issues that night and by the next morning all would be fine.  Wrong.

Fast forward four days to today, and my ears still have not popped.  They still have pressure and fluid and are driving me bananas.  So, I ended up at the ear, nose, and throat specialist today to have them looked at.  Please tell me I am not the only one who has gone to a doctor because their ears haven’t popped four days after flying?!  He confirmed there was fluid behind both ears, and he tried to get them to pop by blowing/sucking air with this syringe type thing.  He also watched my ears as I pinched my nose and blew.  No luck with either attempt.  He confirmed with a hearing test that my hearing is diminished in one ear right now due to the fluid.  Gee, I could have told him that.  ;)

One of the main reasons I went in is because I have a flight again early next week and wanted to make sure that I’m not going to cause further damage while flying with my ears still having trouble from the last flight.  The doctor said that it will probably really hurt again, but that the risk of damage is incredibly low, especially since my ears are not fully blocked with fluid.  I know, this sounds super gross.  I was given a prescription for antibiotics, steroids, and other junk I don’t want to take, and was told to come back in a month.  A month.  This better not be going on in a month!  He also said to take Sudafed and Afrin right before my next flight. 

I share this story for two reasons.  First, it is an issue that traveling families are likely to face at some point.  With little ones in daycare, someone is seemingly always sick when it is time to travel.  Eventually that will likely mean fluid and ear issues while flying for someone in the family.  So, at least you know now what my experience has been like.  These issues really can go on for days, and while doctors can look at your ears, they don’t seem to have a magic cure either.  Second, I would love to hear others’ stories about ear problems and flying.  I know there are about a million home remedies out there for this sort of issue, but I would love to hear what has worked for you or your kiddos.  Oh please Lord, let me ears pop soon!

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