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Need your input! Help a young pilot...

English

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I have a friend who went flying this week with blocked sinuses. He's a young guy, inexperienced but learning. He took some sudafed and assumed he'd still be able to fly, that it would mask his symptoms and provide some relief. I told him he couldn't fly taking that stuff and that if he had a random drug test he'd have some problems. I also told him he'd be hurting and not much use to his captain if he flew while sick. Turns out it was a much bigger deal than he thought it would be. His ears were blocked the entire flight until shortly before landing and he was in alot of pain. Fortunately he made it through, but I'm concerned that since it made it through once, he might try it again.

Can anyone here share any personal experiences you or "a friend" have had while flying with blocked sinuses? He is going to read this thread and might take the recommendation to stay on the ground if he reads about the experiences others have had. Thanks for your input.
 

mar

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Did it once. Never do it again.

The sneaky part about flying with clogged sinuses and ears is that it's much easier to equalize while you're climbing...so you get lulled into a false sense of security.

In other words, that higher pressure air from the surface that's trapped in your sinuses just sort of slowly leaks out and eventually you'll equalize at cruise altitude.

But then ya gotta come down. And that's when you gotta bite the bullet 'cause it's much more difficult to that higher pressure air BACK INTO your sinuses (or ear) and this is when it feels like your sinus cavity is going to collapse or your ear drum is going to cave in.

Bad news.

Unfortunately the Val Salva (is that two words?) manuever is only helpful when you're trying to equalize with normal body parts. If your eustacion tube is clogged with mucus and stuff you can actually make it worse with the Valsalva (it's gotta be one word) manuever as you force more of that junk up towards your middle ear.

Best remedy: Afrin and loads of anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen (definitely one word).

Don't do it again. I didn't.
 

Gulfstream 200

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go to a doctor, and work with your AME (if they are seperate)

They can prescribe "flyable" sinus/allergy treatments like Claratin OTC, Clarinex Flonase etc...that can help long term. Afrin can just make your sinuses much worse long term. Terrible $hit. If you are having the 5 day terrible head cold - nothing helps - stay on the ground. Repeated Sinus, Stuffy head issues very well may be allergy related and can be easily (and legally flyable) treated.

Most meds like this have a few day trial time to be sure you dont have any side effects, then you are fine to fly. (check with your Dr of course, duh...)
 
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English

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I've heard stories of eardrums exploding, bleeding ears and such from pilots flying with blocked ears. Is this another urban myth or has anyone had it happen?

And yes, I'm trying to scare him into never doing it again!
 

Photoflight

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A flight instructor I flew with decided to go up with a head cold. On the way back down burst his left ear drum and then sat on the ground for 6 months while they healed. I think he's got a decent case of tininitus in that ear as well.
 

ackattacker

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English said:
He took some sudafed and assumed he'd still be able to fly, that it would mask his symptoms and provide some relief. I told him he couldn't fly taking that stuff and that if he had a random drug test he'd have some problems.
I'm no AME, but I thought Sudafed or other psuedoephedrine drugs were "approved".
 

English

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The sudafed he took had an antihistamine in it.
 

Gulfstream 200

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ackattacker said:
I'm no AME, but I thought Sudafed or other psuedoephedrine drugs were "approved".
Decongestants, such as Sudafed, are often used with allergies to constrict blood vessels in the nose and relieve the running nose. Pseudoephedrine, found in Sudafed, and phenylpropanolamine, found in many other products, are both approved. These medications act throughout the entire body by constricting blood vessels. Side effects may include an increased heart rate, elevated blood pressure and difficulty urinating in men with prostate problems. Because the frequently keep individuals awake, they are often combined with non-approved antihistamines sold over the counter. These combinations of decongestants and OTC antihistamines are not approved within twelve hours of flying.

Severe cases of allergies may cause asthma or other symptoms that require treatment with oral steroids such as Prednisone or Medrol, or steroid injections. Pilots having symptoms severe enough to require this type of treatment should not fly until the condition is resolved.

The over-the-counter products such as chlorpheneramine (Clortrimaton, CTM) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl) found in many commercial products cause drowsiness. They are not permitted by the FAA and a pilot should wait at least twice as long as the dosing recommendation after the last dose to fly. For example, if the directions read take every six hours", the pilot should wait at least twelve hours after the last dose before considering flying. These medications may have subtle adverse effects for much longer in some individuals. Chronic treatment with over the counter antihistamines requires a 24 hour wait after the last dose before flying, according to the FAA Guide for Aviation Medical Examiners


 
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Immelman

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My mother in law has poor/next to no hearing in one ear as a result of an RJ flight she was on (as a pax).. she had a head cold at the time, and her ear drum popped in descent... note the cabin altitude was probabl < 7000' at a max.

Once I was in an Arrow flying a couple friends, descending from about 11k down to sea level after a long cross-country trip. I had VERY VERY minor congestion.... not enough to think twice about (or so I thought). After a slow (500fpm) initial descent I had to heat it up to make pattern alt after crossing some hills (coming into RHV in california), doing approx 1500-2000fpm descent, crossing 3000' or so, I had SEVERE pain near my eyes (in the sinus). I could barely see. Immediately arrested the descent and came back up 400-500 feet and the pain subsided as quickly as it came on. All I can say is that I am danm lucky it was VMC... in IMC it would have been very difficult to control the airplane.
 

Vector4fun

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I met a controller who told me she took a FAM trip with a head cold many years ago. Short version, one of her sinus cavities split open and she had blood comming out of her nose and around her eyes. The crew had to declare a medical emergency and divert for landing. Not a pretty picture...
 

PCL_128

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While not fun, a blown eardrum isn't as bad as some people make it sound. You usually don't have to be out of work for more than 2-4 weeks. I blew out my left eardrum last month and my hearing is completely back to normal now. When the eardrum actually gives way isn't the really painful part. That's actually kind of a relief. The really painful part is right before the eardrum blows when all that pressure is pushing against it. When it finally gives way, there's a short burst of pain and then it feels a lot better since the pressure is gone. I had a ringing in my ears for about 2 weeks after and it took about 3 weeks for my full hearing to come back. My advice: definitely don't fly with any sort of ear or sinus infection. It's really not worth it.
 

414Flyer

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I flew with blocked ears for a couple of days, not fun at all. Like a previous poster said, its not the climb thats bad, its the descent, and the farther you descend from cruise altitude, the more painful it gets, as the pressure differential increases.

I was in a Seneca hauling freight in the frozen north in Minnesota and NoDak, and of course right about in the flare is when it hurt the most. Figured out if I did a pretty hard valsalva, opened it up, but still was not fun.

Had a doc clear everything out, told me it was from using QTips. He said do not use those, they tend to push wax back further. He recommended just using a washcloth to get what you can, but dont use qtips.
 

GravityHater

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every time you burst an eardrum you lose 5% of the remaining hearing is what the dr told me.

sinus probs can be more than just medical... mine were surgical, but since duh surbery ib jus finb!
 

English

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Update -

I talked with my friend yesterday and I think he learned his lesson. Turns out that flying that day brought on a full-blown cold and the accompanying misery. He has been in bed for several days recovering and says he won't fly in that condition again.

Thanks for all the replies.
 

moxiepilot

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English said:
Update -

I talked with my friend yesterday and I think he learned his lesson. Turns out that flying that day brought on a full-blown cold and the accompanying misery. He has been in bed for several days recovering and says he won't fly in that condition again.

Thanks for all the replies.
glad to hear hea's doing the right thing. sorry he learned the hard way.

good to have a friend like you, but to me most important would be to point out the regs of medicated flying and not the fact it was uncomfortable.
 

Ailerongirl

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Tell him to get better soon!

As a F/A I withstood all kinds of crap from pax, but nothing or no-one ever reduced me to tears. The day I decided to fly with a sinus infection that I self descibed as 'not too bad', had me in tears during our descent into CHS. It was horrible! To this day I will never forget the misery of that flight....nor the look on the faces of my crew as they exited the cockpit to find me crying in pain. Will I ever do it again....oh heck no! NEVER EVER!

:)
 
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