Flying with an earache, ear infection, head cold, or sinus infection can be a painful and potentially dangerous experience. It is especially dangerous when your eustachian tube, the part of your body that connects the back of your nose to your middle ear, becomes blocked. This part of your body acts as an equaliser in the event of a change in elevation. There are a few things that will help with this problem, but the most effective remains avoiding flying if at all possible while sick with any one of these maladies.
Take a nasal decongestant prior to flying. Give the decongestant plenty of time to take effect before your flight. You can use both an oral decongestant or drops or nasal sprays to clear your sinuses.
Use a Neti pot or nasal rinse bottle to cleanse your sinuses prior to flying. A Neti pot is a device for irrigating your sinuses and nasal passages, using a saline solution. Follow the directions that come with it.
Chew gum and yawn while ascending and descending in flight. This movement will stimulate the popping of your ears, giving you temporary relief.
For babies, it is helpful for them to suck on a bottle or pacifier while descending and ascending in flight. This will stimulate the same popping of their ears and decrease their pain.
Plug your nose and blow out while keeping your mouth closed. If this technique is effective, your ears will pop and alleviate some of the pressure that has built up. If you are congested, you will likely hear a high-pitched noise, rather than your ear popping, but the effect is the same.