Airplane Sinus Infection: How to Avoid Sinus Pain this Holiday

Holiday Air Travel – A Real Pain

Turkey-hangover. Mashed-potato-belly. Uncle Joe’s green bean casserole. There is often something to lessen the many joys of the holidays. If you’re prone to sinusitis, air travel is one of them. Anyone who has experienced an airplane sinus infection can tell you, it’s an agonizing experience. When the airplane ascends or descends, the air pressure changes rapidly, and the air inside and outside of your head has to equalize. If your sinuses are blocked, the pressure can’t equalize, and your head is essentially squeezed by the air pressure building up around it. This is extremely painful, and can even lead to a ruptured eardrum if you experience it repeatedly in a short period of time (i.e., you have several connecting flights).

Flying with sinusitis is unpleasant, and, to add insult to injury, flying itself can lead to sinusitis. The circulated air is typically stale, with a high concentration of viruses and bacteria. Additionally, the low humidity in airplanes can irritate the sensitive mucous membranes of the sinuses. So even if you don’t have a sinus infection on your outgoing flight, you may have one on your return trip.

Drink plenty of water

Drink plenty of water.

Protect yourself from sinusitis when you fly by:

  • Using a saline rinse during flight
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Taking a decongestant before you go, to keep your nasal passages clear

It is best to avoid airplanes if you already have a sinus infection, but if you must travel you may be able to keep the pressure down by:

  • Chewing gum
  • Swallowing frequently during take-off and landing
  • Using decongestants
  • Performing the Valsalva Manuver—holding your nose gently closed and exhaling through an open mouth

Need more tips on how to keep your sinuses clear this holiday season and prevent an airplane sinus infection? Don’t hesitate to give us a call!

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