Blocked eustachion tubes: How do I know it is safe to fly?

Posted by Becky, Volunteer Mentor @becsbuddy, Oct 2, 2021

About 2 months ago, my right eustachion tube got blocked. Can’t figure out why. The NP has me using Flonase every day but I don’t see any improvement. My big question is, can i safely go on an airplane, or will the ascent and descent make it worse?

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Hi Becky – Here is a "stepped" test you can try to see if you will be safe (I traveled for 35 years in my job and had eustachian tube disfunction, my ENT taught it to me)
1) Get a decongestant nasal spray and use it ONCE – if the tube unblocks, even temporarily, you are safe to fly.
2) If that doesn't work, take one dose of pseudoephedrine decongestant – again, if it works, OK.
3) Try the 2 decongestants together – again, if it works OK.
If none of these work, you may have a very painful trip. Twice I ruptured eardrums by ignoring this…
Then, if one of your trial works, do the same thing 30 minutes before the flight, and use a shot of the nasal spray 15-20 minutes before descent. Also, chewing gum or sipping water during the flight helps keep the tube open.

Good luck – it is awful to have to cancel a long-awaited trip!
Sue

REPLY
@sueinmn

Hi Becky – Here is a "stepped" test you can try to see if you will be safe (I traveled for 35 years in my job and had eustachian tube disfunction, my ENT taught it to me)
1) Get a decongestant nasal spray and use it ONCE – if the tube unblocks, even temporarily, you are safe to fly.
2) If that doesn't work, take one dose of pseudoephedrine decongestant – again, if it works, OK.
3) Try the 2 decongestants together – again, if it works OK.
If none of these work, you may have a very painful trip. Twice I ruptured eardrums by ignoring this…
Then, if one of your trial works, do the same thing 30 minutes before the flight, and use a shot of the nasal spray 15-20 minutes before descent. Also, chewing gum or sipping water during the flight helps keep the tube open.

Good luck – it is awful to have to cancel a long-awaited trip!
Sue

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Thank you, Sue! Have a spray and pseudoephedrine so will practice and be ready for my trip!

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@becsbuddy

Thank you, Sue! Have a spray and pseudoephedrine so will practice and be ready for my trip!

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Went to the doctor today because my ear was hurting and i lost hearing on the right side. My visit with the NP was virtual so she never looked at my ear. Today’s doctor said i had thick was build-up so he cleaned it out and i can hear again! Will get a recheck when i see my PCP in 2 weeks

REPLY
@becsbuddy

Went to the doctor today because my ear was hurting and i lost hearing on the right side. My visit with the NP was virtual so she never looked at my ear. Today’s doctor said i had thick was build-up so he cleaned it out and i can hear again! Will get a recheck when i see my PCP in 2 weeks

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Glad to hear. If it's not one thing it's another!

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@sueinmn

Hi Becky – Here is a "stepped" test you can try to see if you will be safe (I traveled for 35 years in my job and had eustachian tube disfunction, my ENT taught it to me)
1) Get a decongestant nasal spray and use it ONCE – if the tube unblocks, even temporarily, you are safe to fly.
2) If that doesn't work, take one dose of pseudoephedrine decongestant – again, if it works, OK.
3) Try the 2 decongestants together – again, if it works OK.
If none of these work, you may have a very painful trip. Twice I ruptured eardrums by ignoring this…
Then, if one of your trial works, do the same thing 30 minutes before the flight, and use a shot of the nasal spray 15-20 minutes before descent. Also, chewing gum or sipping water during the flight helps keep the tube open.

Good luck – it is awful to have to cancel a long-awaited trip!
Sue

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@sueinmn Great tips, thanks!

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Sue has good advice. I called to find out how to safely fly with what seemed to be a sinus infection. The doctor told me to take an antihistamine the night before flying and then 2 decongestant tablets (pseudoephedrine) before the flight. I was already taking Flonase steroid nasal spray for allergies.

My head cleared enough to fly without discomfort. I always have cracking in my ears…not sure what a blocked eustachian tube feels like. I am going to see an ENT in a month to see if he has any suggestions.

I have Sjögren’s syndrome and my sinuses get very dry so I don’t even realize I have congestion, there is nothing moving in there. Others with this condition have recommended using a nasal rinse, specifically containing xylitol, called XClear. It has no medications in it, it just clears out the nose and the xylitol helps moisturize the sinuses. I use the squeeze bottle with the XLear packets once a day to keep things cleared out. It has REALLY helped! Couldn’t find it at the stores so I ordered it online.

Good luck!

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Here is the product I mentioned. I see I had called it XClear and it’s really Xlear.

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Most drugstores and big box department stores have a travel section. There is a product called Ear planes which balance the pressure between “outside” and your Eustacian tube. They are placed in your ear canal by you just before take off and landing.
When I fly, I take the antihistamine several hours before the flight, and a decongestant about an hour before take off. Since using the Ear planes (or similar product), I haven’t had any serious issues with ear pain.

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Well, the doctor found a large compacted amount of wax in my ear. He removed it and I’m fine again!

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Hi! I’ve tried all those remedies, & my ENT says my eustacion tubes don’t work. He recommended a kind of balloon therapy but that didn’t work, nor did a physician’s tool that blows air through the nose. He now says perhaps ablation might work. What do you think? I’d like to resume diving …

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@stevez

Hi! I’ve tried all those remedies, & my ENT says my eustacion tubes don’t work. He recommended a kind of balloon therapy but that didn’t work, nor did a physician’s tool that blows air through the nose. He now says perhaps ablation might work. What do you think? I’d like to resume diving …

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Hi Steve, medicine and technology have changed a lot in the past 30 years, but my ENT said diving was absolutely "off the list" of activities with bad eustachian tubes. My husband was a dive instructor and we tried every tactic in his toolbox. The best I was able to manage was snorkeling with shallow surface dives. Thinking now of my precious hearing, seems like it was a small sacrifice.
Sue

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