Hack Your Flight: Save Your Ears While Flying With a Cold


Air travel sucks. It’s bad for you on just about every level. Flying messes with your circadian rhythms as you shift time zones, increases stress hormones, is uncomfortable, and raises your risk of blood clots. It’s also dehydrating and your risk of getting sick from flying is actually pretty high. Because air gets filtered from the front of the plane to the back, your risk is even higher in economy class. Flying with a cold can even cost you your hearing. Here’s what to do:

[readmore title=”Avoid pressure and ear pain: Here’s what to pack in your carry-on bag”]

Business travel is something lots of us have to contend with (at least some of the time). It used to be a major concern for me – a single flight would often result in a sinus infection that lingered for a couple weeks, and I’d experience terrible sinus pain from the pressure changes. Even worse, I came close to rupturing my eardrums more than once. Two of my friends suffered partial hearing loss when their ear drums burst from pressure changes of flying with sinus congestion. I fixed my sinus problems – without surgery – by hacking my health, so I don’t get sick when I fly very much anymore, but I always carry 3 things in my travel bag just in case. After a smoke-filled week with dry desert and hotel air at a conference in Las Vegas, I almost always use these.

Here is what you can use to prevent the pain and possible hearing loss from flying with a cold

flying with a cold

Almost every drug store carries a special kind of earplug called “Earplanes”. They are pressure-relieving earplugs made of silicon baffles with a small ceramic plug in the middle. The plug moves very slowly with a pressure change, giving your sinuses and eardrums time to adjust. Put them in before the airplane doors close and the pressurization begins. You can take the plugs out when at max altitude, but put them in again (important) before the plane starts descending. You will still feel some sinus pain/pressure, but it won’t be nearly as bad, and the ceramic plug will keep your eardrums from bursting. Earplanes are tiny and come in a little plastic box. Mine sit in the bottom of my travel backpack. If you find yourself on the road, this is the best $5 you’ll ever spend.


flying with a cold

Mucinex  is a brand of guaifenisin expectorant. It liquefies your mucus so that it won’t block your ears. It has no effect on your mental alertness like normal cold medications. I take a Mucinex a half hour before flying unless my sinuses are perfectly clear. If I’m flying with a cold, I take two with a big glass of water. It reduces pain and risk substantially.


flying with a cold

Afrin nasal spray will dramatically shrink sinus tissues in 2 minutes.  If I’m congested, I use it before takeoff and landing. If my ears are *really* clogged, I tilt my head back and squirt it from an upside down bottle making for a much higher dose that works faster but can by drying.


You might consider using a safe, non-addictive nasal spray called Xlear to prevent sinus problems in the first place. It uses a sugar alcohol called xylitol to keep bacteria from sticking to your sinuses.


Yep, you read that correctly. Walking around outside barefoot can really have a huge impact if you travel as much and as far as I do. This is one of my favorite ways to hack my flights since it doesn’t require me to take any over the counter drugs that I normally wouldn’t take, and one of my favorite places to do it (if I’m not at home) is at a park while I do yoga, or you can buy and earthing mat too.

Learn More About Hacking Your Flights

How I Killed Jet Lag and Got More REM Sleep Too – This is probably one of the most unlikely sources you would think of for flight hacking but you would be surprised at how effective it actually is. When I first heard about this I literally laughed, but as I was traveling to England on back to back business trips I was willing to do anything, I went to the park across the street from my hotel and did yoga for 20 minutes, while doing this hack and I was shocked at how much better I felt afterwards.

Video: Oxygen & Airplanes at Quantified Self – The video in this post talks about hacking frequent flights, what to do and what not to do. I go into advanced biohacking like pulse oximeters, and blood oxygen saturation and if you’re frequently flying then you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Read More: How to Get Rid of A Cold

Happy flights! 🙂





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