Is Flying With Sinusitis Dangerous?

From time to time I receive emails that strike a chord within me and I have to publish them. Previously I wrote an article about how to clear Eustachian tubes as I had previously experienced years of torment with mine. This is another issue that bugged me incessantly, though likely for different reasons.

I received the following mail:

Subject:
sinus – flying

Message:

After a lot of dental work I developed sinus problems. I have been using a spray that the doctor gave me and have almost have a course of antibiotics plus I have been steam inhaling and using a salt spray. Excuse me being graphic but the catarrh (this is thick mucous) has eased up plus the awful taste in my mouth and smell in my nose. Plus mostly my nose is not blocked and I don’t have disgusting crusty catarrh inside my nose or any nose bleeds but I still feel a lot of painful pressure in my nose/under my nose and around my upper teeth.

Sinus problems were diagnosed by my GP I have spoken to three different doctors as at my surgery you have telephone consultations and most of the doctors work part time. Originally one of the doctors suggested steroids but I have also have gastritis badly and don’t want to risk upsetting my stomach more than I have to. I can put up with the pain but am going on a 5 hour flight soon and worried if it is dangerous?

I also wonder if I should see a specialist to have the diagnosis confirmed and to see if there is anything else that can be done. I have been tapping indiscriminately as I have heard it helped but did not know how to do it but have now seen your site Any help would be much appreciated.

Thank you,

(name withheld)

Are Sinus Infections Dangerous When Flying?

Flying causes sinus problems

Flying can cause existing sinus problems to get worse and can potentially lead to serious problems.

The easy answer is, not usually. Typically your sinus problem won’t be acute enough to cause severe problems such as a ruptured ear drum. If you are unable to equalize using the following methods you may not want to fly as it could cause extreme discomfort and possibly worse:

  • Squeezing your nose and blowing until you feel a pop (and possibly a rush of air or ringing) in your ears.
  • Swallowing. Some find it hard to swallow with nothing in their mouths so if that applies to you, make sure you have some water or other liquid on hand.
  • Yawning.
  • Manipulation of the jaw. usually you can equalize by simply moving your jaw around. This happens automatically when yawning but you can manually do this by mimicking a yawn (moving your jaw down and forwards) as it open the Eustachian tubes.

Sinus Problems Caused Or Exacerbated By Flying

The following sinus problems can be caused or made worse by the changes in pressure and dry atmosphere flying creates:

  • Ear pressure – almost everyone gets this. It’s a totally normal part of flying.
  • Vertigo – This is a serious condition which can cause total disorientation, nausea extreme discomfort.
  • Ruptured ear drum – This is typically the most serious short term condition caused by extreme and sustained changes in cabin pressure that cannot be equalized.
  • Tinnitus – short and long term ringing in the ears can result from traveling with sinusitis.
  • Sinusitis – Sinusitis is simply inflammation of the sinuses. The dry atmosphere inside planes dries up the sinuses, potentially causing further inflammation.

Sinus Problems Can Be Caused By Dental Work

Dental work causes sinus problems

This can happen when bacteria escape into the maxillary sinus, causing tooth ache and seemingly unending sinus problems.

Luckily this doesn’t happen often at all. However, when it does it can be incredibly difficult to deal with. It’s quite difficult to ensure all bacteria is gone from the the worked on tooth. The problem is made worse because the maxillary sinus is very close to the upper teeth and bacteria can pass into the sinus cavity and multiply. Antibiotics may not be able to deal with the problem and a colony can sit there for a long time.

It may be the case that you need to have your dental work re-examined if the problem persists and conventional treatment is incapable of combating the sinusitis.

How To Clear Your Sinuses

If the sinus pressure persists, you may want to get something a little more thorough than nasal sprays. Try a squeezer like the NeilMed Sinus Rinse, which will help to physically clear out the gunk from your sinuses. If your sinus problem is very persistent, you will need something more heavy duty like a Sinus Irrigation System. With both of these I would suggest adding in a couple of drops of goldenseal root as it is has fantastic anti-bacterial properties. By all means continue to see your doctor and take his/her advice. One point to note on safety. With all fluid you put into your sinuses, ensure that the water has been properly boiled to avoid potentially fatal contamination passing into the brain.

So Is It Safe To Fly With A Sinus Problem?

Most likely it is. It may result in a little more discomfort than usual and you may be best to keep your nasal passages moistened. Remember to always ask your doctor if you are unsure and do your best to clear up the sinusitis as much as possible prior to take off.

If you have found information on Sinus Pressure Points useful, get a copy of

The Sinus Guide: 30 Days To Complete Sinus Freedom