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What treatments work for ear pain during air travel?

BMJ Group Medical Reference

If your ears are blocked because you've got a cold or an infection, it may be better not to fly. But you may not want to, or be able to, cancel a holiday or business trip just for this reason. If you have to fly with a cold or a blocked ear, there are some simple things you can do to reduce your chances of getting ear pain during the flight.

  • Yawning, swallowing, or blowing hard while pinching your nose can help reduce the pressure in your ears. You should feel your ears 'pop'.

  • Blowing up a special balloon with your nose can help prevent ear pain during a flight and help clear symptoms after a flight.

  • Taking a decongestant tablet or syrup before take-off may stop you getting pain in your ears if you're an adult. But we don't know if this works for children too.

  • Some people use a decongestant nasal spray before they fly. But more research needs to be done before we can say for certain whether this prevents ear pain.

Which treatments work best? We've looked at the best research and given a rating for each treatment according to how well it works.

Treatments for ear pain during air travel

Treatments that are likely to workTreatments that need further study


For references related to Ear pain during air travel click here.
Last Updated: June 20, 2012
This information does not replace medical advice.  If you are concerned you might have a medical problem please ask your Boots pharmacy team in your local Boots store, or see your doctor.

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