Flying while sick hurts!

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6,987
Location
Michigan
Thread starter
Went to Colorado for Christmas to see my daughter and grandson. While there that little bugger made me sick. My head was stuffed up and unfortunately my ears as well. On descent on the way back my ears were killing me and my head felt like it wanted to explode! Had muffled hearing for 2-3 days after. I tried popping my ears over and over, opening and closing my mouth etc and nothing worked. This is the first time I experienced this.... Ouch! Anyone else have this problem?
 
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588
Location
Raleigh NC
Yes. Too late for this time, but pseudoephedrine is the answer. The stuff you have to sign for at a pharmacy, not the phenylephrine they sell as a substitute.
 
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1,081
Location
The IL
Yes, I had a month long sinus infection that my doctor wouldn't treat until my third visit. In the interim, I had a trip planned. A couple of the most painful flights I've had. I couldn't hear properly for a day or so. It was miserable.
 
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On another site
Originally Posted by MrMoody
Yes. Too late for this time, but pseudoephedrine is the answer. The stuff you have to sign for at a pharmacy, not the phenylephrine they sell as a substitute.
Yep, the "real" Sudafed does help. The kind they can make meth out of...
 

Kestas

Staff member
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The Motor City
I had the same problem when I lived in the hills of Berkeley and was stuffed up. Driving down to sea level was painful. That's when I learned to hold my nose and blow for instant relief.
 
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9,923
Location
Jupiter, Florida
As a pilot, I have to deal with this regularly. I've been able to clear my ears most of the time. However, an allergic reaction can be impossible to overcome. Spend time sightseeing during ash tree pollen season and Eustachian tubes can become so inflamed that no drug treatment and no amount of blowing will solve the problem quickly. The pain may be a combination of the inflammation and the pressure. But oh man it can be awful. Of note, a 2 hour descent rate from 8000 feet (typical cabin altitude) is still too fast for those with the worst blockages. 5 hours is acceptable.
 
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wwillson

Staff member
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3,114
Location
Naperville, IL
I was flying with a student of mine one time from Chicago to Springfield MO in a Turbo Arrow, which is unpressurized. We were above 12,500' for a while and when we came back down, I had horrible (and that's not an exaggeration) pain in my right ear. I didn't realize at the time that I had an ear infection. I seriously thought I was going to pass out it hurt so bad. It's a good thing the student was working on his instrument and we weren't IMC. He could handle everything fine on his own in VMC. We landed and were on the ground for a couple hours. My ear stopped hurting so bad, but hearing was difficult and some pain was still there. When we flew back to Chicagoland, we didn't go above 3,000', the pain wasn't nearly as sever. The Dr. confirmed an ear infection the next day. I will never forget how much that hurt
 

4WD

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13,522
Location
Texas
Same thing but as a passenger of a Twin Otter in Africa … fortunately on the way home … what my ENT got out of my ear could make you miss a meal
 
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13,322
Location
1/2 hr N.E. of Detroit
Earaches and toothaches are the worst. The upper respiratory infection I was treated for recently was 7-8 years old - never went away and never got so bad, that I needed to visit the Emergency Room or an Urgent Care Center. It went from my middle ears to my chest and was only discovered during an Appendectomy I had 8-9 weeks ago. I was taking Nasal Spray, Decongestants and Allergy Pills for the past 3-4 years. Now I'm fine. No more hoarse throat when I need to yell or sing loudly. No more stuffy nose. No more dark brown wax discharge from my right ear. No more shortness of breath. No more moderate pain, ear-popping in high-rise elevators that I ride weekly. Life Is Good...... for the first time in a long-long time.
 
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5,761
Location
New England
I have found that chewing something throughout the course of the flight helps me a lot...used to use gum and got tired of having to dispose of it when it got nasty, so now I usually chew Mentos slowly at least on the ascent and (especially) descent. It ends up being a lot of sugar, but that's better than pain. On my second or third flying trip ever, the pain in my right ear was so bad on the descent that I kept grabbing involuntarily at my head...I'm sure I looked like a loony. Didn't want to fly ever again after that, but I got over it.
 
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39,583
Location
Great Lakes
Flying with ear infection or sinus infection is a horrible experience which I've gone through a few times. Very bad. Nowadays, if I'm clogged up in my head and have to fly, I take a 12-hour Sudafed (need to ask a pharmacist behind the counter for it). It's 120 mg of pseudoephedrine HCl and it definitely helps relieve the pressure and makes air travel a lot more bearable. EDIT: Looks like MrMoody beat me to it. thumbsup
 
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588
Location
Joplin
I wonder if flying out of Denver makes it worse because that is the one and only time I remember and it was horrible. I didn't have any signs of being ill but on the decent the pain started just above my eye sockets. I had to take my glasses off and tried everything with no relief. It was a couple of years ago but so bad it's something I'll not forget. For me it wasn't in my ears but in those sinus cavities in your forehead and felt like my head was going to explode. It was a couple of days before I was pain free.
 
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8,947
Location
MA
Originally Posted by Quattro Pete
Flying with ear infection or sinus infection is a horrible experience which I've gone through a few times. Very bad. Nowadays, if I'm clogged up in my head and have to fly, I take a 12-hour Sudafed (need to ask a pharmacist behind the counter for it). It's 120 mg of pseudoephedrine HCl and it definitely helps relieve the pressure and makes air travel a lot more bearable. EDIT: Looks like MrMoody beat me to it. thumbsup
Yeah, if you use pseudoephedrine HCl it's like you don't even have a cold. No need to bother with any other cold medicine. Last time I had a cold, I wasn't even sure if I still had a cold, just took it regularly for a few days.
 
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292
Location
D-FW, Texas
I will take pseudoephedrine and Motrin if I have a head cold and have to fly. The Motrin will help reduce the inflammation which blocks the eustachian tube from allowing the middle ear to equalize pressure. It also doesn't hurt to take Afrin nasal spray just before you board or about 30 min before decending. I generally don't use the stuff since you can get "addicted" to it and actually cause more congestion.
 

JTK

Messages
12,967
Location
Buffalo, NY
I get excruciating ear pain every time I fly. It started about 12yrs ago. Had no problems with it prior. I've tried the special ear plugs you can buy to no avail. The only thing that helps me is loading up with a high dose of Sudafed just prior to flying as mentioned above. I dread flying anymore because of this and like said, I've had bouts so bad my hearing was effected for days afterwards. When I talked to my docs about it, they examined me, found no issues and suggested the Sudafed thing.
 
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