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Keeping a clear head in the air

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If you suffer from sore ears while flying, the Earpopper may become your best friend. Photo / Supplied
If you suffer from sore ears while flying, the Earpopper may become your best friend. Photo / Supplied

There are obviously a lot of people out there who suffer from stuffed-up heads after travelling by plane.

My article on holding out hope of being able to breathe better air when flying, as a result of improved air filtration and aircraft construction techniques, enthused a great many readers.

But, perhaps more importantly, it also produced some suggestions on how to get off the plane without feeling shattered.

Several people recommended the use of Nasal sprays.

Jean Ross, for instance, wrote, "The easiest way to avoid bleeding noses while on long-haul flights is to use a saline nose spray frequently during the flight. I use one called Otrisal. It costs less than $10 and is worth every cent.

"The only drawback I have experienced was being pulled aside at LA to have my handbag searched for a suspicious object.

On the X-ray my Nasal spray looked like a large syringe."

Bet Johnston said her husband, who for years had sinus problems after long flights, uses Vicks First Defence and "finds it excellent. Couple of puffs every so often and with a bit of luck (and better air conditioning these days) you'll get there in good shape."

Actually, I have often tried using Nasal sprays - in fact I've used so much that my wife makes our own using boiled water, salt and a tiny amount of tea tree oil - and found that while they certainly help they don't solve the problem for me.

Beth Houlbrooke recommended using a humidifier mask. "I wear one on all flights over about three hours' duration due to the discomfort caused by dryness," she wrote.

" I used to get terrible sinus pain that made sleep impossible on longer flights, and the inevitable cold or flu, or just feeling downright awful for several days, upon reaching my destination, almost always spoiling my holiday.

"The mask allows you to re-breathe moist air by trapping the humidity from your own breath. It makes breathing really comfortable, but also prevents mucus drying out. It is thought that there are really no more bugs on a plane than anywhere else, but the very low humidity causes mucus membranes to dry leaving one more susceptible to viruses, as a layer of thin mucus normally gives a level of natural protection. The mask covers nose and mouth, and has an added anti-bacterial filter.

"Sure, it looks weird and everyone gives me sideways looks, but at least I have a comfortable flight and arrive at my destination rested and feeling well."

If you're interested, you can read more about the mask she uses on humidiflyer.com.au.

Alan Ferguson, principal audiologist with Applied Hearing, made the point that for many aircraft passengers the greatest fear is the discomfort - in some cases excruciating pain - felt in their ears particularly as the plane descends.

"The good news," he wrote, "is that the aptly named Earpopper, newly available in New Zealand, can alleviate this condition. We've been getting great feedback from frequent flyers who have suffered from ear pain that no amount of pinching their noses and swallowing can fix.

"This small battery-powered device directs a steady, controlled stream of air into the nose. Swallowing diverts the air into the eustachian tube, opening [it] and relieving pressure imbalance in the middle ear."

If you'd like to find out more about this gadget see appliedhearing.co.nz or earpopper.com.

Pictured above:  If you suffer from sore ears while flying, the Earpopper may become your best friend. Photo / Supplied

- Jim Eagles

- NZ Herald

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