Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Ear - Congestion


  • Ear Congestion is a stuffy or plugged up feeling in the ear
  • Crackling or popping noise in the ear
  • Hearing is often muffled

Call or Return If

  • Ear pain occurs
  • Ear congestion lasts more than 48 hours
  • You think your child needs to be seen
  • Your child becomes worse

About This Topic


  • Blockage of the ear tube (eustachian tube). Usually occurs from nose allergies or a cold
  • Blowing the nose too much can also cause blockage of the ear tube
  • Sudden increases in air pressure. This can occur in descent (coming down) when mountain driving or flying.
  • Middle ear fluid can also cause this. This sometimes happens with ear infections.

Prevention During Air or Mountain Travel

  • It's safe to fly when your child has a cold
  • Most symptoms happen when the airplane is coming down in altitude. This is the descent of the plane during the 15 minutes before landing.
  • Keep your child awake during takeoff and descent.
  • Swallow during descent using fluids or a pacifier.
  • Children over age 6 can chew gum during descent.
  • Yawning during descent also can open the middle ear.
  • Drink lots of fluids throughout the flight. This will prevent the nasal secretions from drying out.

After Care Advice

  • Most often, this is from a blocked ear tube (eustachian tube). This tube normally drains the space behind the eardrum.
  • It is usually not caused by an ear infection.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Swallow and Chew More:
  • Swallow water or other fluid while the nose is pinched closed. Reason: Makes a vacuum in the nose that helps the ear tube open up.
  • After age 6, can also use chewing gum.
Decongestant Nose Spray (Age 12 years or older):
  • If chewing doesn't help after 1 or 2 hours, use a long-acting decongestant nose spray. You can ask your pharmacist to suggest a brand.
  • Dose: 1 spay per side, 2 times per day as needed.
  • Don't use for more than 3 days. Reason: Can cause rebound swelling in the nose.
  • Decongestants given by mouth (such as Sudafed) are not advised. They may lessen nose and ear congestion in some children. However, they also can have side effects.
Allergy Medicines:
  • Nose allergies can cause ear stuffiness.
  • If your child has hay fever or other allergies, give an allergy medicine. An example is Benadryl.
What to Expect:
  • The symptoms most often clear within 2 days (48 hours) with treatment.
  • It's safe for your child to swim or fly.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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