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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Prevention

To prevent barotrauma, your Eustachian tubes must stay open. If you have a cold, ear infection or allergy, you may want to reschedule airplane travel until you are better. If you or your child must fly with a cold, infection or allergy, take a decongestant about one hour before your flight. Continue taking the medication during the flight according to the package directions. You also can use a decongestant nasal spray. Antihistamines may also be helpful. Ear plugs have been developed that can slow down the pressure change that affects the ear. These might give your ears some additional time to adjust to pressure changes. These plugs can be used for air travel but they are not useful for diving.

During a flight, make sure you are awake for the landing so you can "pop" your ears if necessary. (If you ask, a flight attendant will wake you.) Infants should be kept awake during a flight's descent and can be given a bottle or pacifier to suck on to help keep their Eustachian tubes open. Keep the child upright as the plane descends.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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