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How to Keep a Child's Ears From Popping When on a Plane

By Elizabeth Hartsock ; Updated June 13, 2017

Traveling with children presents unique challenges, and preventing your youngster’s ears from popping while on an airplane is one. Pressure changes in the cabin while the plane ascends and descends causes ear pain; once a steady altitude is maintained, the likelihood of ear popping decreases. You can use a variety of techniques to prevent and treat ear popping in your child while flying.

Prevention

See your doctor before flying if your child has a cold. Treating a cold with cold medicine or other prescribed courses before flight is best, because congestion in the upper respiratory system can make ear pain worse during pressure changes in the cabin.

Offer a pacifier to a small child as the flight takes off and allow her to use it for the duration. The sucking mechanism relieves pressure of the inner ear, preventing popping. For an older child, hard candy also works well.

Have your child chew gum. The movement of the jaw while chewing releases pent up pressure in the inner ear. This technique can also be used to relieve inner ear pain once it has begun. This is recommended only for an older child or adult; accidentally swallowing gum can be a hazard for a small child.

Treatment

Have your child try a pacifier, hard candy or gum to alleviate discomfort once ear popping begins.

Attempt to release the pressure through steam treatment. Place a hot towel inside a cup and place it over the child's ears, one at a time. This can release the pressure in the ear through temperature changes in the gases. Ask a fight attendant for the hot towel.

Have your child drink something, which can relieve pressure in the inner ear. Breastfeeding a baby can often do the trick as well.

Warnings

If attempting the steam treatment, test the cup to your arm first to make sure the steam is not too hot for sensitive facial skin. Burning can result if there is too much steam.

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