Air travel sucks. It’s bad for you on just about every level. Flying messes with your circadian rhythms as you shift time zones, increases stress hormones, is uncomfortable, and raises your risk of blood clots. It’s also dehydrating and your risk of getting sick from flying is actually pretty high. Because air gets filtered from the front of the plane to the back, your risk is even higher in economy class. Flying with a cold can even cost you your hearing. Here’s what to do:
Business travel is something lots of us have to contend with (at least some of the time). It used to be a major concern for me – a single flight would often result in a sinus infection that lingered for a couple weeks, and I’d experience terrible sinus pain from the pressure changes. Even worse, I came close to rupturing my eardrums more than once. Two of my friends suffered partial hearing loss when their ear drums burst from pressure changes of flying with sinus congestion. I fixed my sinus problems – without surgery – by hacking my health, so I don’t get sick when I fly very much anymore, but I always carry 3 things in my travel bag just in case. After a smoke-filled week with dry desert and hotel air at a conference in Las Vegas, I almost always use these.
Here is what you can use to prevent the pain and possible hearing loss from flying with a cold:
Almost every drug store carries a special kind of earplug called “Earplanes”. They are pressure-relieving earplugs made of silicon baffles with a small ceramic plug in the middle. The plug moves very slowly with a pressure change, giving your sinuses and eardrums time to adjust. Put them in before the airplane doors close and the pressurization begins. You can take the plugs out when at max altitude, but put them in again (important) before the plane starts descending. You will still feel some sinus pain/pressure, but it won’t be nearly as bad, and the ceramic plug will keep your eardrums from bursting. Earplanes are tiny and come in a little plastic box. Mine sit in the bottom of my travel backpack. If you find yourself on the road, this is the best $5 you’ll ever spend.
You might consider using a safe, non-addictive nasal spray called Xlear to prevent sinus problems in the first place. It uses a sugar alcohol called xylitol to keep bacteria from sticking to your sinuses.
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