The first time I ever went on a plane, my parents gave me a stick of gum to chew on, to help with any potential ear pain from the pressure changes. For the next several years, any time I went on a plane I popped a stick of gum, just in case. As it turned out, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing I could have done. Here’s why:
When you chew gum, you wind up swallowing more often and part of what you swallow is air. Meanwhile, because of the pressurization of the cabin during flight, we’re already at more risk for passing gas in a plane. So the extra air you’re swallowing could be an added factor in farting on the plane. Or at least suffering from gas while you’re sitting there.
In fact, it even has a name. Aerophagia (aero = air, phagia = swallowing)
Oh, and if you’re chewing sugar-free gum? It’s a double whammy for feeling gassy, because artificial sweeteners can also give you gas.
What to do instead
Of course, just because you shouldn’t chew gum to relieve the uncomfortable feeling of pressure in your ear doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. Try these:
- Use these (I’ve been using them for years and they are AMAZING)
- Swallow (you don’t have to have anything in your mouth to swallow)
- Suck on candy (you’ll still swallow air but your mouth will generally stay closed and you won’t swallow as much air as when you’re chewing gum)
- Hold your nose and mouth shut and gently exhale (this is called the Valsalva maneuver. Don’t do it if you have a cold or allergies, because it could lead to an ear infection. Instead, try to Toynbee maneuver: close your mouth and nose and swallow several times until the pressure equalizes.)
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary