Swallowing activates the muscle that opens the Eustachian tube. Because we swallow more often when we chew gum or suck on mints, these are helpful practices when traveling by airplane, especially just before take-off and during descent. Yawning is even better.
Try not to let your child sleep during descent, because the child may not be swallowing often enough to keep up with the pressure changes. If yawning and swallowing are not effective, instruct your child to unblock his or her ears as follows:
- Pinch your nostrils shut.
- Take a mouthful of air.
- Using your cheek and throat muscles, force the air into the back of your nose as if you were trying to blow your thumb and fingers off your nostrils.
When they hear a loud pop in the ears, the ears have been unblocked. Your child may have to repeat this several times during descent.