Monthly Archives: December 2015

7 Ways to Cope with Airplane Ear Pain

image courtesy of marin at

image courtesy of marin at

The hassles of airports are bad enough without the uncomfortable pressure that builds within your ears during airplane flights, also known as ear barotrauma. Ear barotrauma occurs when the eustachian tubes get blocked and your body cannot balance the air pressure inside and outside the eardrums. The temporary hearing loss has only one benefit:  It comes in handy when encountering the misfortune of sitting near a nonstop loud talker. Unfortunately for some people, however, ear barotrauma is much more than discomfort; it’s downright painful. Planning ahead is key. There are ways to minimize the effects of airplane ear pain.

  1. Prep Work

Begin taking decongestants containing pseudoephedrine and guaiphenesin (Mucinex D, for example), provided you have the go ahead from your doctor, 24 to 48 hours prior to your flight. If you suffer from allergies, be sure to take your antihistamine pill and prescription steroid nasal spray. Choose nonstop flights when possible, and drink enough water prior to boarding to stay hydrated so that your mucous membranes do not dry out. If you normally experience ear pain in flight, you might consider taking some pain medication, such as Advil or Tylenol, prior to boarding.

  1. Filtered Earplugs

Pressure-equalizing earplugs (such as EarPlanes brand) can be purchased at drug stores or at the airport. They are designed to minimize the pain from the rapid changes in cabin pressure. Insert them as soon as you are seated on the airplane and again at least 30 minutes before descent. If it’s a short flight, you may want to leave them in for the duration. There have been mixed reviews on the success of filtered earplugs, but, when in pain, it’s worth a try. Bonus:  The nonstop loud talker seated near you will sound muffled.

  1. Proactive Rituals

Using vasoconstricting nasal sprays (such as Dristan or Neo-Synephrine) right before takeoff and prior to descent will keep your nasal passages clear. Many people chew gum to keep their jaws moving. Sucking on lozenges maintains the goal of swallowing as often as you can. You can also inhale and blow through your nose very gently while pinching your nostrils shut to force air through the blocked eustachian tubes.

  1. Be Sleepy but Stay Awake

Yawning can be very effective for relieving the pressure by making your ears pop, so being a bit tired might be to your advantage. You do not want to be asleep, however, during the ascent or descent. Those are the critical times to make conscious effort to swallow often, to keep your jaws moving and to relieve the pressure as best you can.

  1. Young Children

Encourage young children to swallow by sipping a beverage during takeoff and descent or using a pacifier while sitting up. Since young children should not chew gum, drinking through a straw or blowing bubbles through a straw may help. Decongestants are generally not recommended for young children. Talk to your pediatrician regarding prescription ear drops that contain a pain reliever and numbing agent.

  1. Things to Avoid

Stay away from alcohol and caffeine before and during flight. Both are dehydrating and can cause the mucous membranes to become inflamed. Smoking will exacerbate the situation. If you can, avoid flying when in the throes of an upper respiratory illness and suffering from congestion. If you are a nervous flyer, choose to instead self-medicate on an indulgent, calorie-laden treat (unless you are prone to motion sickness, of course—a topic for another time).

  1. Can Ya Hear Me Now?

Temporary hearing loss and associated discomfort should return to normal within an hour after landing. In the meantime, enjoy not having to listen to your traveling companion complain about his or her lost luggage. However, if you have pain, dizziness, ringing in the ear or hearing loss for several hours, you need to see a doctor. If painful ear barotrauma is a chronic problem for you, discuss treatment options with your doctor—perpetual suffering every time you fly is not one of them.

If you need to travel often, it’s smart to keep your immune system strong by supplementing healthy eating and exercising with anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting herbs and vitamins such as turmeric, ginger, astragalus, elderberry, echinacea, goldenseal, oregano, Vitamin C and probiotics. Have you tried any of these remedies or some others not mentioned here?  If so, other than abstention from flying (my number one choice), have you found some effective relief?


Natural Remedies to Kick Chronic Sinusitis to the Curb

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Fed up with constant sinus problems? Sick of stockpiling decongestants and antibiotics? Tell me about it. I’ve tried everything short of spraying Lysol up my nose. Nothing smells of desperation quite like risking permanent damage to one’s olfactory organ for the remote possibility of eliminating sinus pressure. Every year, once my allergies are in full bloom, I’m back in the throes my annual six-month sinus infection. Oh, how I love a tall glass of pounding headache in the morning with a shot of facial pain. Not so much. The good news is that I found a combination of remedies that finally kicked my chronic sinusitis to the curb.

Spray what?

No worries, I was only kidding about the Lysol. However, grapefruit seed extract (GSE) nasal spray is no joke. In fact, I believe this is the single most beneficial preventative and curative measure I have taken. GSE  is a strong natural antioxidant and antibiotic. After using this for several days, all of a sudden—OH EM GEE—I can breathe!

Clear the Air

Keep in mind this simple mathematical equation: dried-out sinuses + inhalation of germs = chronic stuffy nose and headache. Multiply that by facial pain and now you are the product of a huge sum of nasty disposition. Invest in an air purifier, particularly for your bedroom, and make sure it contains a HEPA filter. (I also have a small unit which uses UV light to sanitize the air. It’s near my desk at work—can’t hurt, right?) A humidifier in your bedroom for dryer months is a must. Mix tea tree oil, lavender oil and eucalyptus oil with apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle to kill mold and germs in the air.

Boost Your Immune System

A good-quality probiotic should be an everyday staple for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it aids your immune system. Make sure you put vitamin D in your daily pill organizer next to the multivitamin and vitamin C for the same reasons. Determined to win the battle against my chronic sinus infections, I now ingest many herbal supplements to help strengthen my immune system. After trial and error, I have come to rely on these, my new best friends:  goldenseal, elderberry, garlic, oregano, and astragalus. Warning: buy only reputable brands. Otherwise, you might as well toss your money in the trash can alongside the insurmountable number of tissues you’ll undoubtedly use while in the midst of yet another sinus infection. Of course, you already know not to begin taking any herbal or vitamin supplements without getting your doctor’s OK.

Natural Anti-Inflammatories

Bromelain, an enzyme found in pineapple, is touted for its strong anti-inflammatory properties, particularly for the sinus. Many people are aware of the numerous health benefits of omega 3 fatty acids such as promoting healthy eyes, heart and joints. Add soothing inflamed sinus cavities to its long list of attributes. Research the benefits of turmeric and ginger. These have become essential regulars in my daily supplement regime. Bonus: ginger is purported to help prevent memory problems; if this is true, at least you won’t forget to take the rest of your supplements.

Food Basics

I have disciplined myself to drink a nutrient-rich super-green cocktail every day. Okay, it’s actually more like a river-silt flavored super-healthy drink which deceitfully boasts a pleasant berry taste. Nevertheless, it give me me energy and makes my skin look maaaaaahvelous.  I now almost like the taste–almost. Stay away from mucous-producing dairy products but be cognizant of getting enough calcium. Almond milk is a tasty alternative.  It is high in calcium and vitamin E and low in sugar. Speaking of sugar, some experts suggest that eliminating it from your diet, along with grain products and caffeine, will cut down on mucous production. Quite frankly, there is no way I can possibly cut sugar, grain or caffeine out of my diet entirely; I just mention it in case your resolve is greater than mine. Try drinking 2T of apple cider vinegar in an 8 oz. glass of water at least 3 times a day at the first sign of symptoms. Apple cider vinegar thins the mucous and is antibacterial and antifungal.  Honey and garlic also have antibacterial, antiseptic and antiviral properties.

Stick to the Basics

You need to keep up on the basic preventatives. It’s important to keep your sinuses moist with saline nasal spray. Warm compresses are comforting for facial pain and help open the passageways. I can’t say enough about the positive results I’ve gotten from NeilMed Sinus Rinse with a drop of tea tree oil.  This method is less awkward than the neti pot. Prescription steroid nasal sprays and daily allergy medications are helpful preventative aids if your chronic sinusitis is a result of allergies. Steaming the sinuses is soothing and helps relieve headaches. (I love the compact personal steamers sold in drug stores).

Allergy Proof Your Home

Not only frequent dusting and vacuuming but also regular cleanings of the HVAC system and wall unit air conditioners are super important. Keep your linens and mattress cover clean and dust-mite free. To be honest, I have little personal knowledge of whether regular and meticulous cleanings of my home would benefit my sinuses. If I miraculously develop the gumption to give it a try, I’ll report back.  What remedies or rituals have worked for you?