Sound Advice for Children's Ears

Up and Away With Airplane Pain

Flying can be hard on little ears. Babies and young children are especially vulnerable to ear pain during takeoffs and landings because their tiny eustachian tubes, which connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and keep air pressure stable in the ear, are easily compressed, says Rose Mary Stocks, M.D., an associate professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of Tennessee, in Memphis.

To ease the pain:

  • Breast- or bottle-feed your baby, or offer a pacifier during takeoff and landing. Sucking and swallowing will open up her eustachian tubes, equalizing pressure in the inner ear.
  • Let children older than 4 chew gum, which will relieve the pressure, or encourage them to eat or drink something. Yawning or pinching the nose and trying to blow also helps.
  • Some pediatricians recommend giving an over-the-counter decongestant before the flight to clear out the ears, especially if your child has a cold.

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