Your baby isn't being a baby when she's screaming as your plane lands. What you are experiencing as a mild muffling in your ears may be excruciating pain for your kids.
During take-off and landing, surrounding air pressure changes are equilibrated to the pressure in your ears through a small tube, called the Eustachian tube. Failure to accomplish this pressure equalization can lead to pain and a significant sense of ear plugging.
Because children and particularly babies can have underdeveloped eustachian tubes, this increases their risk of ear pain during air travel.
If this happens to your child, try these seven tips to help ease the pain.
#1 Pack a snack for takeoff and landing
The act of chewing and swallowing can shift the ear enough to help the eustachian tube do its job.
For small infants, feeding can help, as the sucking and swallowing can help to equalize pressure more quickly.
Encourage older kids to take small bites of a snack, sips of a drink with a straw, or keep chewing gum throughout takeoff and landing to help equalize the pressure.
#2 Clear up congestion
A stuffy nose could block the eustachian tube, making it more difficult for your child's ear pressure to equalize.
Babies’ airways can get stuffed up easily, and dry air can make a bad situation worse. Try having an older child blow his nose, A quick squirt of nasal saline solution every 30 minutes helps keep the nasal passages open when traveling with your little one.
The jury is out as to whether antihistamines help—some studies have shown that adults may benefit, but kids may not be so lucky.
Medications such as Sudafed are not clinically proven to prevent ear pain in children during air travel.
If you want to try it, give your child the proper dosage 30 minutes before takeoff or landing.
#3 Try pacifiers and lollipops
The sucking motion can be just as effective as chewing and swallowing at helping the eustachian tube equalize the pressure.
If your child is old enough, hard candy can work wonders; for the very young, that pacifier can come in handy.
Try a little manipulation. Encourage older kids to yawn, stretch their mouth wide, or do the Valsalva maneuver—a technique that involves plugging your nose and swallowing or exhaling through the nose.
#4 Let your baby cry it out
Crying babies may not have any fans on airplanes, but a little crying actually helps in the process of opening the eustachian tubes and clearing the ears.
If you can bear it, let Junior wail.
#5 Keep your baby awake during take off and landing
It may be tempting to let sleeping babies and kids lie, but resist the urge. If your child's asleep, she won't be swallowing, chewing or yawning as much as she would otherwise.
Remember changing cabin pressure during a flight causes temporary changes in middle ear pressure, which can trigger ear pain. To help equalize the pressure in your baby’s ears, encouraging your baby to suck on a bottle or pacifier during takeoff and landing will help.
If your baby shows signs of discomfort during take off and landing, wake them up briefly and follow the above suggestions.
#6 See a doctor before you fly if you suspect an ear infection
If your child has ear infection symptoms, check in with your pediatrician a few days before your flight.
An ear infection may have an increased risk of ear pain during their flight, plus there is a risk of ear drum rupture.
If your child is sick or has an ear infection prior to air travel, they may require medical treatment with antibiotics prior to proceeding with your travel plans.
#7 Block the noise – use Earmuffs
The plane is a noisy environment. There will be many strange noises that your baby or child has not heard before. Plus there is the annoying background hum of the engines.
Do not use cotton balls or ear plugs because your baby could choke on them if they fall out. New Junior Earmuffs are made for babies and infants especially for these types of environment when you can’t control the surrounding noises. They are soft and comfortable to wear and come with a stretch adjustable headband.
Use earmuffs and block out all that noise and allow your baby and child to sleep peacefully through the cruising part of your flight.