Dr Sonia's ENT

ENT Specialist, Head & Neck Surgeon,Bangalore
Dr Sonia Suprabha Venugopal

ENT Health Articles

Air travel -Health tips

Posted on June 26, 2010 at 5:22 PM

Air travel has its specific set of health problems and we may have heard of some of them.

The important health issues are:-

  • Ear  problems
  • Jet Lag
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis[DVT]
  • Motion Sickness

Jet lag

Jet lag is caused when you travel through multiple time zones. These changes in time zones confuse your body's inner clock and produce biochemical cahnges Inferior turbinate the body. Symptoms of Jet lag include fatigue, insomnia, disorientation, headaches Overeating, smoking and drinking alcohol can  worsen jet lag.

Tips for dealing with Jet Lag:

• Do some gentle mild exercise while airborne and upon arrival .

• Adjust your sleep time before you leave on your trip to match your destination time zone.

• Don't stay on your home time zone. Change your watch to your destination time zone and try to adjust to the new time zones as early as you can

• Drink enough water.

Ear Pain

The ear is made of 3 parts- outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.During  flights the ears are subjected to changes in air pressure. The middle ear is connected with the back of the nose by the eustachian tube which equalizes air pressure in the middle ear to that in the encironment.

People often have more problems during landing. If the Eustachian tube is not functioning properly due to a cold or allergy the eardrum will be retracted inward due to the negative pressure building in the middle ear, producing ear blockage,impaired hearing and evn ear pain during descent.

Tips for dealing with Ear Pain:

  • Try yawning wide 
  • Try swallowing slowly and do this repeatedly
  • Try chewing gum or suck on a piece of candy
  • Try the Valsalva maneuver: Hold your nose with both your fingers,close your mouth and blow out gently against it to pop the ears.This valsalva manoeuvre can help push air through the eustachuan tube in to the middle ear  to equalize the pressure. This should not be done if you are suffering from a cold or sinus infection.


  • Avoid flying if you have a cold
  • DO Not fly if you have a middle ear infection
  • If you frequently get ear discomfort  or suffer from a sinonasal condition meet your ENT specailist who will examine your nose and ears to diagnose any predisposing condition and prescribe a decongestant nasal drops and advise you on the correct dosing and schedule prior to your flight.
  • You might try earplugs and cotton in the ear canal during the flight .
  • Do not sleep during take off and landing
  • Do not smoke
  • Do not drink alcohol inflight or prior to flying
  • Babies and Children:Feed your baby during take off and landing.Give an older child candy to suck on during take off and landing.

What makes you prone for ear problems while flying?

  • Children-Young children have immature eustachain tubes and are especially prone for ear pain and other ear problems while flying. Feed your baby during take off and landing.Give an older child candy to suck on during take off and landing.Discourage sleeping during take off and landing.
  • Ear drum architectural abnormalities- eg thin or retracted ear drums
  • Sufferers of disease in nose and sinuses, Allergic rhinitis

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can sometimes occur during long flights due to inactivity. Blood flow slows down, especially in the lower legs, and clots can form. Sometimes there are no symptoms until several days after the flight when DVT can be mistaken for a cramp in the legs. It is a serious medical condition requiring emergency treatment. Overweight individuals are at risk for DVT.

Tips for preventing DVT:

• Flex your legs frequently (at least every 30 minutes) while seated.

• Try compression stockings

• Avoid sitting with your legs crossed for more than a few minutes.

• Drink  enough water.

• Avoid dehydrating beverages such as alcohol & caffeine.

• If you have DVT  risk factors discuss your flight travel plans with your doctor and you may be given a prescription  of DVT preventing medicines

Motion Sickness

Motion sickness can occur in turbulence, while turning or even in routine flights.At such times inner ear fluid mechanisms can be affected and produce the unpleasant symptoms of dizziness, nausea, increased salivation, sweating and even vomiting

Tips for dealing with Motion Sickness:

• Try sitting near the plane's wings. This will reduce the motion felt.

• Try over the counter medications or visit an ENT specialist for a prescription before flying

• Try Ginger (capsule form) and peppermint (mint-flavored candies).

• Eat lightly before and during your flight.

• Sit at a window seat.

• Don't read.

• Open your air vent.

Other  Travel Health Advice

• Try not to fly within twelve hours after dental work because the change in cabin pressure can be painful.

• Avoid drinking  alcohol.

• Carry your health prescriptions and short medical history including allergies. Keep important medications in your hand baggage[ make sure you have your doctor;s prescription orders for these for security reasons]

Dr Sonia Suprabha Venugopal


Consultant ENT & Head & Neck Surgery

Sonia & Prateek's ENT Speciality Center,Sahakaranagar, Bangalore



ENT Specialist Bangalore

Categories: Ear , General, Nose and Sinuses