It’s that time of year when we leave the office and head out on a little rest and relaxation. For many people, the summer months can be a time for travel home to their native countries, relax on a beautiful beach, or spend time visiting loved ones via plane, trains, or automobiles. With that in mind we have a few tips to keep you and your kids happy.
For those who decide traveling by air is the most convenient, it is important to make sure your ears are ready for the pressure changes. As the plane descends and ascends we are all familiar with the blocked sensation our ears can get. Usually we can unblock them by chewing gum during this time of the flight. Basically, you assist in equalizing the pressure with the help of your Eustachian tube, a mucosa lined tunnel that travels from your middle ear (behind your ear drum) to the back of your nose. If you have a cold, congestion, or significant allergies
, pressure equalization may be especially difficult.
Prior to ascending using certain oral decongestants or nasal decongestant sprays can assist you in equalizing pressure. For little ones it may be helpful to prepare a bottle of milk during take off and landing to assist them in doing the same. Children can sometimes have more difficulty with pressure equalization than adults. If you have an ear ache or ear infection prior to flying, it might be best to consult your physician before you board your flight. When we have ear infections, fluid can build up in the middle ear and cause us to have more ear pain than without.
Swimming becomes a favorite past time for many of us during the hot months. Usually regular swimming does not require any special precautions during the summer months. Few individuals may be prone to what is called swimmer’s ear or otitis externa. This is an infection of the ear canal that can be caused by various bacteria. Usually it is a painful ordeal and most seek medical treatment immediately. If you are prone to these, your physician may recommend an ear cleaning regimen to prevent future occurrences.
Also common when we go swimming is the feeling of our ears being blocked afterwards. If it is just water, that will usually resolve on its own. If it persists, sometimes the culprit can be cerumen (or ear wax). Before your ears got all wet in the pool, the wax may have been dry and you probably didn’t feel anything. Sometimes however, when the wax becomes moist it will cause a blocked sensation and the feeling that you cannot hear as well. If it doesn’t resolve on its own, you may benefit from having your ears cleaned by a physician. We don’t recommend patients stick anything inside the ear canal, as you might cause trauma or even push the wax in further into the ear canal.
For patients who may have ear tubes (also known as myringotomy tubes), many may be concerned about having to use ear plugs during swimming. Recent research however has supported that ear plugs are not necessary for individuals who swim in clean and chlorinated swimming pools, but help if one swims in the ocean or a lake. Always ask your physician what their opinion on this is and know that many times custom made molds if recommended are usually better than those bought over the counter, which may or may not adjust to your ear canal.
The summer months are a great time for rest and relaxation. With these tips, we hope you can give your ears a little bit of a rest too.
Assist. Prof. Dr. Dhave Setabutr
is a U.S. board-certified specialist in otolaryngology and pediatric otolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat) at Bumrungrad International Hospital