The Medicine Frequent Travelers Swear By To Prevent Annoying Ear Problems Mid-Flight

Flying can be a pain — literally. According to a 2015 research review published in BMJ Clinical Evidence, 10% of adults and 22% of children experience some ear symptoms during air travel. In rare instances, travelers may even suffer from ear drum perforation.

If you've ever been struck with severe inner ear pain during a flight, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Thankfully, relief can be found at your local drugstore, according to some frequent fliers. A TikToker and flight attendant who goes by CiCi in the Sky posted a helpful video for those who struggle with earaches, where she reveals that Sudafed can stop ear troubles before they start.

According to the content creator, the medicine — also known as pseudoephedrine — treats congestion, which may contribute to ear problems when in the air. Simply pop a tablet shortly before your flight to eliminate pain and pressure. The tip is also doctor-approved: Cleveland Clinic lists decongestants as a common treatment for symptoms of ear barotrauma, or "airplane ear."

Not everyone should take decongestants when flying

Sudafed and other over-the-counter decongestants can be a quick fix if you're about to board a flight and feeling stuffy. However, the remedy isn't a good idea for all travelers and all trips.

First, while children are more likely to suffer from ear pain than adults, they may not respond well to decongestants. A 2018 study published in BMJ determined that these medicines aren't shown to be effective in children aged 12 and under and may even pose medical and safety risks. Before giving your child a Sudafed tablet, check with their pediatrician and always make sure to follow proper dosage instructions.

Some adults may also suffer side effects and health risks from taking decongestants while flying. NHS explains that pseudoephedrine may be dangerous for those with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, glaucoma, liver or kidney problems, and some other conditions. Moreover, bringing Sudafed and similar medicines on your flight could get you in trouble, as pseudoephedrine is banned or regulated in some destinations. For instance, the drug shouldn't be brought into Japan, where it's treated as an illegal stimulant, and the United Arab Emirates considers it a controlled substance.

Other remedies for mid-flight ear problems

Surviving a long-haul flight with ear pain can feel like torture, but even if you can't take oral decongestants during your trip, you can still nix ear problems with a few other remedies. In her TikTok clip, CiCi in the Sky shares two additional tips for struggling fliers. Besides Sudafed, the flight attendant suggests keeping Afrin on hand for moments of discomfort mid-flight. You can also use the nasal spray before take-off to keep pain at bay. Note that Afrin is a decongestant so, like Sudafed, it's a good idea to check drug restrictions in your destination before bringing it on board.

Cici in the Sky also recommends the NeilMed Eustachi device, which claims to correct air pressure issues and keep your ears from popping during flights. Another device not mentioned in the video is EarPlanes, a type of earplug specially designed to control uncomfortable air pressure changes in the ear.

Consult your doctor before trying a new fix for your ear woes, especially if you routinely suffer from symptoms. Doctors can help treat any underlying conditions that may be contributing to your in-flight pain.