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How to Unplug Your Ears When You're Sick

author image Sandra Ketcham
Sandra Ketcham has nearly two decades of experience writing and editing for major websites and magazines. Her work appears in numerous web and print publications, including "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "The Tampa Bay Times," Visit Florida, "USA Today," AOL's Gadling and "Kraze Magazine."
How to Unplug Your Ears When You're Sick
Nasal and sinus congestion can cause your ears to feel "plugged up." Photo Credit ear image by cico from <a href='http://www.fotolia.com'>Fotolia.com</a>

Narrow tubes, called Eustachian tubes, connect your middle ear with the back of your nose and upper throat. When these tubes are blocked due to inflammation or congestion, they are unable to equalize air pressure in the middle ear with environmental pressure. This causes feelings of fullness and discomfort, and may lead to tinnitus, hearing impairment and ear infection, according to the House Ear Clinic. Allergies, viral and bacterial infections, and overly narrow Eustachian tubes cause most cases of plugged ears. To unplug your ears, you'll need to treat the underlying issues--and sleep in the proper position.

Step 1

Sleep in a semi-upright position to encourage draining of your sinuses and nasal passages. Prop your head up with several pillows, or sleep in a chair to keep your ears unplugged. The American Academy of Family Physicians states that lying on your side may reduce sinus pressure and congestion, which can encourage your ears to unplug.

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Step 2

Unplug your ears by yawning, swallowing, or chewing gum. Gently pinching your nostrils while breathing out with your mouth closed may also open up your Eustachian tubes and relieve pressure and discomfort, according to Epnet.com.

Step 3

Take an over-the-counter antihistamine or decongestant to clear congestion caused by allergies or upper respiratory infections. Prescription-strength medications and nasal steroids may be necessary for severe symptoms.

Step 4

Run a humidifier in your bedroom at night to relieve any congestion that is contributing to uneven pressure between your middle ear and the environment.

Step 5

Use a saline nasal rinse twice each day to clear nasal congestion and reduce inflammation caused by environmental irritants, such as pollen, pollution and dust. Breathing in these substances, especially if your nasal passages are already irritated due to congestion and sneezing, can cause your Eustachian tubes to swell, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Step 6

Take all medications prescribed to you for the treatment of ear infections or sinusitis. Pus and other fluids from ear and sinus infections can cause persistent blockage of the Eustachian tubes, according to the House Ear Clinic. In these cases, effective treatment of the infection will unplug the ears. Take the entire course of your antibiotics, even if you begin to feel better before you finish treatment.

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