A few years ago, I was flying after coming off of a pretty terrible sinus infection. Besides looking like a hot mess, my still puffy and tender cheeks decided to wage a war on my head during our descent. Having now been through childbirth, I would still clock that feeling as one of the most painful experiences I've ever had to endure. It felt like my whole head was being crushed, and the only thing that brought me a sense of comfort was knowing that it would be over once we touched the ground.
Notorious for not being the most patient individuals, children and babies usually don't understand that it will be over soon. All they feel is pain, and as parents, we want to prevent that from happening more than anything. Since that terrible flight, I've learned some hacks to prevent ear pain while flying. After all, when children aren't in pain during a flight, everyone has a more pleasant experience.
- Don't underestimate the power of a lollipop. Giving children something to suck on, like a lollipop or a mint, will help open up the ears and relieve pressure. Plus, these kids are usually too distracted by a random act of sweetness to think about the pressure.
- For older kids, try gum. I'm not a personal fan of gum, but I always make sure I have it on me during flights. The chewing forces the ears to constantly pop and relieve themselves, mitigating the pain from the pressure.
- Drink plenty of water during the flight and descent. Besides just being a good practice anyway, drinking water will force kids to swallow, thus opening the ears. Drinking also has the added benefit of fighting against the dry air in the cabin, lessening the risk of nasal passages getting clogged and dried out.
- Let babies go crazy on their pacifiers. Now is not the time to wean them off of a pacifier, since the sucking motion does wonders for relieving pressure.
- When in doubt, go for some medicine. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen, in the recommended dosages and approved by your doctor, are another way to prevent pressure pain.
- Help kids learn how to pop their ears themselves with the Valsalva maneuver. While you might not know this term, you definitely know the action. By covering the nose and mouth and exhaling, you force the ears to pop, helping to deal with cabin pressure. Think of how you plug your nose and mouth before jumping into the pool.