For millions of Americans, flying is a commonplace activity that generally poses no significant health concerns. Nevertheless, enhancing your comfort during air travel is always a wise consideration. The shift in pressure during flights can lead to temporary discomfort, such as ear popping or a feeling of fullness. To mitigate this, make a conscious effort to swallow frequently, chew gum, or engage in yawning.
If these methods prove ineffective, the ‘valsalva maneuver’ can be employed:
- Pinch your nostrils shut.
- Inhale a mouthful of air.
- Use your cheek and throat muscles to gently force air into the back of your nose in short, successive attempts.
Take caution to avoid forceful breathing from your lungs, as this can create intense pressures. For infants, who may be particularly affected by pressure changes during descent, providing a bottle or pacifier can often offer relief.
Consider postponing your flight if you’ve recently undergone abdominal, eye, or oral surgery, as pressure changes during ascent and descent may cause discomfort. Similarly, individuals with upper respiratory or sinus infections should assess the feasibility of delaying their travel plans.
Pressure changes can also lead to foot swelling, so opt for comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Alcohol and coffee, known for their dehydrating effects, coupled with the dry cabin air, can increase the risk of respiratory infections. If you wear contact lenses, take precautions such as thorough cleaning, the use of lubricating eye drops, and periodic removal during the flight.
For those on prescription medications, carry a sufficient supply for the entire trip, accompanied by a copy of the prescription or your doctor’s contact information. Keep medications in their original containers to streamline security and Customs inspections.