General Question

tonedef's avatar

How do you equalize your sinuses after flying?

Asked by tonedef (3930points) January 14th, 2008

I am all congested, and my sinuses have been in extreme pain since the plane started its descent. My hearing is also muffled as a result. Does anyone have a suggestion for helping my ailing sinuses?

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8 Answers

adamandshauna's avatar

I’ve always heard pilots say that they hold their noses, close their mouths, and try to blow air out their ears. Rather a lot like blowing your nose but with every escape route closed off. You got to put some effort into it but it usually works for me.

brownlemur's avatar

I have the same problem. I found this out about 5 years ago on a descent when I suddenly felt like someone was stabbing me in the brain for the entire descent and hours afterward, inexplicably crying out of just one eye. A few days later (warning, this is gross) I spit up a blood clot that came from my sinuses. I find that if I take tylenol sinus before the flight and then use Afrin sinus nasal spray during the flight (BEFORE descent) I am fine. I always keep Afrin in my pocket when I fly now, and it really helps with that problem. If the pressure doesn’t let up during descent I will use the spray then as well. Sometimes the valsalva maneuver mentioned above helps, but not much.

segdeha's avatar

Like adamandshauna said, I plug my nose, close my mouth and—carefully, so as not to blow out my eardrums—build up air pressure until my ears clear. I used to get horrible sinus pain when I flew as a kid, and this technique works for me.

HeNkiSdaBro's avatar

jesus brownlemur! That is serious pain!! why don’t you just equalize? When the plane takes off the pressure in the cabin reduces which means to have too much pressure inside your sinuses. If you then plug your nose and blow you add more air… What you have to do is to plug your nose and mouth and SWALLOW. That will suck air out from your sinuses and compensate the pressure change. Another tip is to chew bubblegum, might help. Yawning also helps clear the sinuses and equalize.

HeNkiSdaBro's avatar

during my flights I equalize all the time as soon as the ears show signs of pressure difference. make sure it is always equal to avoid them to ‘lock up’ . On the descent before landing I usually have to add some air to the ears. It always works out.

Poser's avatar

In flight school we sat in a hypobaric chamber to simulate flying at 30k feet to induce hypoxia. When they would bring us back down, we would have to execute the valsalva maneuver every 1000–2000 feet. On descent, the pressure in the cabin increases, while the pressure in your middle ear stays roughly the same. This is what causes the pain or discomfort. Holding your nose and blowing (like you would do if you were diving), forces more air into your middle ear (via the Eustachian tube), and equalizes the pressure.

I still hate doing the Valsalva. It feels like I’m going to rupture my eardrums. But so long as you blow slowly and steadily, you won’t, and it will most likely help your problem.

Just remember though, only perform the Valsalva on the descent! Doing so on the climbout will cause you to rupture an eardrum. Chewing gum and/or yawning is the best way to let the pressure out of your middle ear when climbing.

segdeha's avatar

@HeNkiSdaBro, To clarify, I was talking about adding air during descent, not ascent.
@Poser, Great answer! I didn’t realise you are a pilot?

Poser's avatar

No, my eyesight wasn’t good enough. I had to settle for sitting in the backseat.

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