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Health A-Z

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Harvard Medical School

Treatment

If you experience the symptoms of barotrauma during a flight, there are several things you can do:

  • Chew gum or suck on hard candy.

  • If you don't have gum or candy, yawn and swallow frequently.

  • If these methods don't work, pinch your nose closed, inhale through your mouth, and then try to push the air out through your nose while keeping it pinched shut. Don't push hard, and stop as soon as one ear pops. If you blow too hard, you can tear your eardrums, so do it carefully.

Most cases of persistent barotrauma of the ear can be treated with decongestants. In unusually persistent cases, an ear, nose and throat doctor may have to make a small incision in the eardrum to equalize the pressure and drain the fluid. If you have a ruptured eardrum, you need to keep water out of your ear to prevent infection. A perforation of the eardrum that has not healed after two months may need to be repaired surgically.

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