Story time: the summer before our littlest started kindergarten, we decided to take our family on a trip to Disney World. It’s a big excursion for any family, so being the researchers we are, we spent the weeks leading up to our departure date scouring the Internet for anything and everything that could derail the family fun.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this thorough investigation translated into us stuffing a bunch of vitamin C down the throats of our kiddos, trying out a wacky — but totally helpful! — new packing method, and, of course, driving 60 miles out of the way to our closest Trader Joe’s location to buy the “perfect” sunscreen.
As we stood, family in tow and boarding passes in hand, waiting to walk onto that jetway, we were confident that we hadn’t left anything to chance. Yes, this was going to be the family vacation to remember…
…until our almost-kindergartner started screaming bloody murder once the airplane started to ascend.
Yep, for whatever reason, we did NOT prepare for the painful pressure that those little ears had to endure. The poor guy was so traumatized — and plugged-up — from the experience that the first couple days at the park were no fun. And, of course, trying to get him back on the plane home was quite the chore, too!
Naturally, when we got home, our first mission was to make sure that a little bit of cabin pressure would never derail another one of our family vacations ever again.
To guarantee that you don’t suffer through a similar experience, here are some of the most helpful tips, via the experts at Healthy Hearing, that are sure to stop ear pain in its tracks— even when you’re 30,000 feet in the air…
One of the best ways to curb ear pain when flying is to “swallow” air. This might sound like it would feel strange — and it kind of does — but it is one of the most effective ways to unclog ears around. This is because bringing air into the Eustachian tube via the mouth ensures that a constant flow of air is circulating through the middle ear, a process which naturally replenishes the membranes. Makes sense!
Chewing a piece of gum
If “swallowing air” doesn’t sound appealing to you, you can always initiate the same process by chewing on a piece of gum before you take off or land.
Sucking on a lollipopTipHero
Or hard candy helps, too! This method works especially well for kids who are just old enough to suck on a hard candy or sucker, but aren’t exactly well-versed in the practice of mess-free gum-chewing yet!
Performing the Valsalva maneuver
If your ears are particularly plugged-up, try the Valsalva maneuver! All you need to do is swallow a bit of air, then close your lips and pinch your nose. Once everything is fully sealed, try to take a breath. You’ll soon feel that the air has nowhere to go but out your ears. Smart!
Or opting for the Toynbee maneuver instead
If you’re sick with a cold or the Valsalva maneuver feels too rough for you to perform, try the Toynbee maneuver. In this case, you can swallow with a hand over your closed mouth until the pressure begins to equalize. Tip: if you’re having a particularly hard time, gently pinch your nose and swallow. The air won’t be forcefully let out like when the Valsalva maneuver is administered, but it should give you some relief!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on all things airplane ear pain! Has this ever happened to you or your kiddo before? Do you have any tips of your own for preventing ear pain? What are your tricks for pulling off a perfect family vacation?