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pianogirl Feb 27th, 2004 07:23 AM

help! flying with a cold!
I have a terrible cold and am leaving in 1 week for Hawaii. Anyone know the best OTC medicine to take to keep my ears opened up? Last time I flew with a cold I didn't take anything and my eardrum almost burst! Even though I may be better in a week I'm afraid hubby my catch it.

Seems I ALWAYS get sick on vacation, anyone else ever have this problem? Argh!

Cassandra Feb 27th, 2004 01:35 PM

Take an antihistamine (make sure you know which OTC's are antihistamines with NO OTHER ingrediants) and consider using a nasal spray (will help ears) - but be careful you know exactly what you are taking. Nasal sprays usually have a decongestant in them, and you don't want to take a cold medicine that also has a decongestant because doubling up on that can cause trouble.

Certainly, certainly, consult your doctor before you go, though, if you have any worries or if you need to know which medications do what. Mine prescribed Flonase once, which helped.

NoFlyZone Feb 27th, 2004 01:51 PM

Sudafed is pretty good for this situation. It's recommended for scuba divers (who have similar problems) and works well.

cjbryant Feb 27th, 2004 07:45 PM

I know that you have a trip right around the corner, however you need to consider that you can do permanent dammage to your ears or sinuses by attempting to beat the congestion issue with decongestants.

Blown eardrums and bauratraumatic damage to sinus tissue (which can lead to sinus infections) are nothing to ignore.

That not withstanding it sounds like you are determined to go so let me throw my two cents in. I'm a certified scuba instructor for 15 years and 100,000 mile per year flyer. I am forced to deal with this issue at least once or twice each year. I am NOT however a medical professional and have no formal medical training.

Antihistamines vs decongestants... Antihistimes stop your nose from running, they do not act as decongestants. Many OTC's include both and if you are both runny and congested use something that includes both the antihistime and the sudafed. However, if you are not both runny and congested it is better to take a single product to treat your actual symptoms than a "multi part" product.

Bottom line,to avoid "blowing an eardrum" and other fun injuries you need a decongestant. Sudafed (or its generic) is a good one. Beyond the options that you can ingest, there are nasal decongestant sprays. Afrin (or its generic ingredient) is a good one. You can use Afrin to help force your sinuses open - critical as the ears and sinuses are all part of the pressure equation.

Do not use the Afrin heavily in advance of the trip. Sinus tissue can quickly become desensitived to it. You need to be sure that the tissue responds to the Afrin should you need to use it to force your sinuses open in order to land.

So, if you are runny and congested you need antihistamine and decongestant orally plus possibly the Afrin. If you are just congested use the sudafed and Afrin.

When to start taking and retaking to avoid a reverse squeeze (aka sinus and or eardrum blow out). You need to be very careful about when you take your decon.

If you decongest prior to take off and them become congested prior to landing you trap air in your sinuses. That trapped air is at cabin pressure, however cabin prssure is not surface pressure so as the plane descends any trapped air in your sinuses or ear canals expands as the pressure changes.

If you are congested, the expanding air in your sinues can't escape. This is an extremely painful problem and it can do serious damage. I literally had a filling pop out as a result of that trapped air trying to escape during a congested ascent.

To avoid this hazard you need to plan to be fully decongested both at take off and at landing. So...take your decon a full 1 1/2 hour prior to take off. Also plan to retake a full 1 1/2 hours prior to landing. That means that you may end up taking more that the regular dosage depending on the trip duration.

Also make sure that you can "clear" your ears successfully at least an hour prior to take off and landing. Test your ability to "clear" by performing a valsalva manuveur - forcibly exhaling while holding your nose pinched shut and your mouth should feel your ears "pop". If you can clear you are in good shape. If you can't, you better put the Afrin to work. If you can't clear prior to departure do NOT get on the plane.

If you can't clear an hour prior to landing, be prepared for a real problem - you are about to cause some damage and you want to work that Afrin like crazy to try and open those sinuses up.

About the ascent and descent...actively forcing your ears to pop by "clearing" yor ears during ascent and descent helps the process particularly if you are congested as it allows adjustments at closer pressure intervals that the natural process would involve. On descent that's the "hold your nose and blow" routine. On ascent its a forced stretching yawn and shifting your jaw left to right with mouth fully opened.

I really hope that you don't need to put any of this information to use!!!! Be safe and be sensible. It's a bummer to cancel a trip that you've been looking forward to, but its worse to do permanent damage by going.

I'm not sure I would want to make a trip to anywhere if I had a terrible cold (and I sure don't want you on one of MY flight's with all your yicky germs.

kkj Feb 28th, 2004 12:26 AM

Not to be harsh, but please see a doctor and wear a mask. You could give your cold to a lot of other people on the plane and ruin some vacations. Please remember to be considerate of those around you in closed confined quarters for the long flight to Hawaii.

Any chance you could postpone your vacation for your sake and for the others on the plane?

clevelandbrown Feb 28th, 2004 06:35 AM

I just saw my doctor yesterday out of concern that my cold would make a flight Monday unpleasant (for both me and other passengers). She recommended that I carry Robitussin DM. Fortunately, I spent some time in a steam bath later and that seems to have reduced my symptoms.

I would recommend seeing your doctor before leaving, as what we laypeople call a cold could actually be something else.

Cassandra Feb 28th, 2004 07:40 AM

The chances are good that you'll be over your cold by the time of your flight, so hopefully all this advice is just for background info. If it's not a cold but something more like flu, well, you may be stuck with after-effects (like a cough) for quite a while. Hope you'll actually be feeling better and hubby stays healthy (vitamin C!!!).

But let me weigh in on the decongestant vs. antihistamine issue -- no, I'm not am MD but I live with one and have been curious about this very issue for a while. I've asked what each do, and came to the conclusion that it's a little nuts to have the two bundled in the same medication -- MD agrees with me -- and here's why.

Antihistamines essentially dry you out, inhibiting production of fluid from tissues and thereby stopping a running nose -- and also drying out sinuses, eyes, and other tissues what might carry fluid. Decongestants do the exact opposite - they increase production of fluids to "melt" congestion and make the (medical term here:) crud break-up and flow away. They can also add to sinus pressure by doing that (and in some cases raise blood pressure) until the sinuses clear themselves.

If you have a cough, both can make it worse, one by drying out your bronchia and the other by increasing irritant material that needs to be cleared!

I usually take an antihistamine before I fly partly because I'm allergic to a lot of things that blow through the air supply (esp. mold) and partly to keep down potential pressure. I do bring a bottle of Afrin just in case my nose closes up (which it can if the allergies kick in big time) because it does a good job of on-the-spot clearing.

HOWEVER, the cost of using either one is always rebound -- once it wears off, I get a flare-up of the thing that was the original problem, and I have to "wean" myself off -- esp. the Afrin (one nostril at a time).

Finally, everyone's ignored your last question about ALWAYS getting sick. There have been other threads about this, and yes, it happens a lot. One theory is that you keep an illness at bay while you're forcing yourself to work and it takes over once you get away from work pressures. Another is that stress of anticipating travel makes you vulnerable. And as to illnesses that come on once you are on your vacation -- well, the possibilities are obvious.

pianogirl Feb 28th, 2004 11:41 AM

Thanks everyone for the advice! I'm feeling a little better today so I think with a week still to go, I should be over it. Hubby is taking vitamin C like crazy.

Our tickets are non-refundable as well as some of our hotel rooms.

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