Medical & HealthNews and debate about medical and health issues as they relate to aircrews and aviation. Any information gleaned from this forum MUST be backed up by consulting your state-registered health professional or AME.
Approximately 6 weeks ago I came down with a rather nasty cold. My sore throat was diagnosed as Strep Throat and antibiotics were prescribed. The antibiotics cleared up the sore throat and nasal congestion within a week, however I have been left with extremely sensitive ears following my illness. It is virtually impossible for me to resume flying as I am unable to clear my ears during descent. An Ear Nose and Throat specialist told me that the condition is called Eustachian Tube Dysfunction, and has many causes (Allergies, Sinusitis, Tumors, Polyps, etc.). My Sinus X-Ray came back clean and now the Doctor is at a loss. As I am somewhat desperate to get back in the air, I am hoping that someone out there may have some advice or experience regarding this matter.
Well, as a humble GP, I'd try you for a couple of weeks on a pure steroid nasal spray such as Beconase or Flixonase or else a combined steroid / decongestant nasal spray such as Dexa-rhinaspray. This may unblock your Eustachian tubes. I presume you have tried this?
Thanks for the reply. I have indeed been using a prescribed nasal spray for the last 12 days. It is called Nasacort. Unfortunately the condition has not improved since I started it. I should also note that the Eustachian blockage seems to be somewhat intermittent. At times I am able to feel my tubes opening when swallowing and at other times they seem to be constantly closed. The Valsalva technique is ineffective on my left ear.
I have had a similiar problem, in fact a few years back I suffered a barotrauma (no. 3) on descent which prompted some surgery to clear my sinuses.
I am now very conscious of equalising and I dont go anywhere without a decongestant (drixine) in my flight bag. Last week I could feel crackling on climb in my nostrils. After a couple of sprays I coughed up a rather horrible "mouth oyster" which cleared it up nicely.
I think I may have a slight allergy as this happens only rarely. If you fly and are prone to ear blockages, I suggest you always carry a degongestant for which is safe for use while flying.
Location: A Whilom nimble brain. With 31 million posts.
My ears never cleared without popping them myself. However, yawning always gave me an instant perfect equalization. The answer is obvious, ask crewing to fly you with the most excruciatingly boring colleagues in the airline.
Seriously though, give it time, and if you can get somewhere warm, see what your doctor thinks about swimming in salt water - i.e. you are not wide open to other bugs etc.. No diving though!
I always found it good following head colds. Failing that, sterile warm water doosh with enough salt to taste roughly like the sea. Not very scientific, but is one of those old remedies that seem to work well.
I have suffered on and off for years with problems clearing my Eustachian tubes. Up until now, it has only caused discomfort and hopefully not been so serious as to be a real threat to my health. Even so, I would never fly without a decongestant in my pocket, as has been previously mentioned.
I have always specifically asked for anti-histermine free. Are there any specific problems with some of the brand names? Its just that it is not easy to get a-h free in some countries, and I would like to know if I am opening myself up to any possible problems.
Mmmmmmmm - interesting !! I came to this forum to post a similar query. Last weekend I came on with a bit of a head cold after a few days of malaise. Anyway, on the Saturday I was due to go paradropping and my codl wasn't too bad but I took some no-droway sudafed, whihc cleared it all up like a treat. However, on desecnt from FL100 at around 3/4k = PAIN. Soon went after landing. Did another drop from 5k, no pain on descent. Lunch, took another sudafed. Hour later did another 10k = Massive pain around 4/5 k, passed control over to pilot next to me who was supervising. I was beside myself, I was shaking ....... managed to get a grip and land - good ldg !! Pain soon went, but hearing all muffled.
Noramlly this type of thing goes overnight, but persisted, went to doc. Got checked out. No infection, but 'all mechanical' accorign to gp ........ give it time it will clear. That was yesterday, but fact is 5 days later still congested. Mithered doc for some prescription for heavy duty decong's but he said nothing relaly availbale, but Sudafed isn't really effective, - hey yeh dont say. Told him this thing sometimes happens when no cold- we talked - he mentioned soemthing that sounded like Mayonaise (remember I was a bit deaf !! ;-)) ..... obvioulsy from reading thread ... was beconaise. Sounds like the hedge maybe onto something with Dixrine .......... off to Boots tomorrow !!
Fact is I'm thinking ........ f*** ........ is this a predisposition aginst my suitability as a professional pilot !?? Admitedly you don't do 2/3 k per min descnets in airlines.
I've had eustachian tube problems since November 2003. In that time I've seen a number of specialists and GPs, each one giving a different diagnosis and advice (none of which has helped). What I've learned has been to be more aware of what my body is telling me.
For example, the Eustachian Tube Dysfunction seems to be worse when I am fatigued or stressed, and this is true whether I'm flying or on days off.
I'd advise anyone having difficulty equalizing pressure in their ears to be more aware of all the other circumstances (eg associated pain/discomfort like jaw or sinus pain, when it happens, what kind of day you've had, etc), and note it all down so that when you go to a doctor you can give him the full story.
Just an added thought, when I first started flying I had constant earblocks during desent. One so bad that my eardrum was filled with blood according to the USAF flight surgeoun. It almost ended my flying life from the start. They placed me on Amoxicillan for 2 weeks along with Actifed. They claim Actifed is really good for opening the eustchstion tube. Its also available over the counter. Never had a problem after this. Sent me back to the altittude chamber and passed with no problems, not even the slightest discomfort. Had a bad cold a couple of years back and could not clear my ears, took Actifed again and was completely clear by morning. You should not fly on this medication as it causes drowsiness. If you can not do a simple valsalva and clear your ears dont force it. Actifed should help. Still prescibed by the USAF to this day. For some reason this effects many of us and suddenly goes away after a few years of flying. Not a doctor and you should consult your ENT. But get a second opinion as it may effect your job flying. Dont take no as a final answer.
Don't know if this is any help but I have had the same problems, been to see an ENT consultant and GP. A long story short, after scans from the ENT consultant could find nothing wrong. Was tried on the nasal sprays for weeks and a device called an otovent reccommended by my doctor but to no avail.
With this in mind I decided to start changing my diet and looking for alternative therapy. I have not eliminated but have cut down on dairy and mucas building foods and have acupuncture every two weeks.
The acupuncture has worked wonders on my ears and by yawning and clicking my jaw I can now regulate the pressure again - it's also done wonders for other problems such as my back etc.
Not saying it's a cure for all as I was sceptical about it but it really has helped for me. Talk to your doctor and he might point you in the direction of a reccommended acupuncturist (if you're willing to try anything!).