When pollen counts spike in the springtime, many people will suffer from congestion and other allergy symptoms. For some, congestion can result in a secondary infection called sinusitis, or a sinus infection. If you’re planning on air travel, you might wonder if a sinus infection will sidetrack your plans. Most of the time, sinus infections are not contagious, so you won’t have to worry about transmitting an illness to other passengers. However, you will have the concern of significant discomfort that can arise as cabin pressure fluctuates inside the plane. In some cases, even more severe symptoms can occur, such as tinnitus, hearing loss, or vertigo.

How Blocked Sinuses Can Cause Uncomfortable Flights

As planes ascend and descend, cabin pressure can change rapidly. If you have severe congestion, you may not be able to equalize, so pressure builds up and causes serious pain in the ears and sinuses. Nasal congestion blocks the Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose, equalizing pressure on both sides of the eardrum. When the Eustachian tube is blocked, normal methods of equalizing like chewing gum or performing the Valsalva maneuver may fail to provide relief. Still, there are some steps you can take prior to and during your flight to find some relief and fly safely.

  • Use a nasal decongestant a few hours before your flight. This may be in the form of a pill taken orally or a nasal spray. Note that using nasal spray too often can cause you to develop a tolerance, so use it sparingly.
  • Stay hydrated to encourage drainage of the sinuses and moisture in the sinus cavities.
  • Use a saline nasal spray during the flight, once every hour.

If possible, visiting a doctor before your flight may help you find further relief from sinus infection symptoms. MeMD can connect you to a medical provider quickly, anytime, anywhere. Request an affordable virtual urgent care visit so you can fly with comfort.

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