Flying with a cold
Do or don’t do?
A cold can make air travel very unpleasant. Plus, you could also infect others, which is not a good way to start a holiday. What can you do if you are about to fly and you have a cold? Just go or stay home? And what about the cost?
Flying with a cold and air pressure difference
Flying can cause an uncomfortable feeling in the ears for a lot of passengers. This is due to the changing air pressure in the plane, which can cause ear problems. This is because the pressure on the ground is different from the pressure in the air. As an aircraft climbs, the air pressure drops. When a plane descends, the air pressure increases. This is compensated for as far as possible in the cabin, but people who are sensitive to this or who have a cold. will feel the difference in pressure in their ears.
This pressure on the ear is because there is air behind the eardrum. If the pressure of the air behind the eardrum is much higher or lower than the pressure of the air in the surrounding area, there will be a tension on the eardrum. The air pressure behind the eardrum can be adjusted by the body by passing air through the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube allows air to enter or escape from the chamber behind the eardrum. If you have a cold or an ear infection, the Eustachian tube may be blocked and the air pressure cannot be regulated properly.
The result: high pressure on the eardrum and earache. If the pressure gets too high, it can cause hearing damage. For example, tinnitus, (temporary) hearing loss or even a ruptured eardrum, which can be very painful. The symptoms usually go away after a few days, but the eardrum can take weeks or even months to heal.
Landing more painful
If you have a cold (or allergies), your ears will suffer during landing. Air has to be let out when the airplane is climbing, and in when it is descending. It is usually more difficult to let air in than out. This is why people’s ears suffer more on descent than on take-off.
Children are more likely to suffer from earaches when flying
Children are more likely than adults to suffer from earaches. This is because the Eustachian tube does not work as well in young children. Does a child have frequent earaches during a flight and you don’t? If so, be aware that this is not just a matter of attitude, but that there are differences between adults and children.
To fly or not to fly with a cold?
If you decide to fly with a cold, there are a few things you can do to protect your ears.
- Nasal Spray
Use a nasal spray or nose drops half an hour before take-off or landing. This nasal spray may help to clear the Eustachian tube a little.
- Valsalva technique (popping)
By keeping your nose and mouth closed and then trying to blow out air, you can increase the pressure on the Eustachian tube and allow air to escape into the air chamber behind the eardrum. The result: your ears ‘pop’. Air gets back behind the ear, reducing the pressure. Make sure you do this carefully. This technique can also damage the eardrum.
- Moving your jaw
Another way to move air in and out of the space behind the eardrum is to move your jaws. Chewing gum or yawning may help.
Swallowing can also help. If your ears are really bothering you, try drinking some water. This trick is also easy for children or babies whose ears are bothering them.
Are you anticipating problems during the flight or have your ears suffered badly on a previous flight? Then you should consider buying special earplugs for air travel. These earplugs have a filter that slowly adjusts the air pressure, reducing the pressure on your eardrum.
Hearing problems after a flight
The difference in air pressure can damage the ear’s mucous membranes and blood vessels or, in the worst case, rupture the eardrum. Can you feel the pain yet? What if that happens?
Fortunately, it usually heals on its own after a few weeks or months. However, you may still have pain for a long time, or even experience dizziness, vomiting or persistent tinnitus. Does it not go away by itself? You should still see your doctor.
Should I cancel my flight or fly anyway if I have a bad cold?
It is not recommended to fly if you have a bad cold. There is a good chance that you will suffer from earache or hearing loss. You also don’t want to infect other passengers.
On the other hand, it is usually not possible to change a flight free of charge. And it is often not possible to postpone a package holiday. So you usually don’t have the option of waiting out the worst of the cold before boarding the plane. Don’t want to miss your holiday because of a cold? Then there’s nothing to do but board the plane with a cold and use the above tricks to limit the damage.
Compensation for cancellation due to colds
Do you decide not to fly because you have a cold? Then you do not have to count on financial compensation from the airline. Do you have travel cancellation insurance? If so, you can check with your cancellation insurance company to see if you are entitled to compensation. The chances of getting compensation are very slim. Most policies state that only serious illness, accidents or death can be grounds for compensation. This does not include the common cold. Unless there are other complaints AND you have a medical certificate stating that you are unfit to fly in your condition, only then do you have a chance of getting compensation from your cancellation insurance.