What causes earaches? What truly are the causes of the debilitating pain in your ear that makes you spend wakeful hours in the middle of the night? We would love to know all of that, as we have suffered from the same at some point in our lives. Earaches are usually caused by ear infections. Viruses, bacteria or rarely yeast affect the ear. There are three areas in the ear that are prone to ear infections and plague both adults and children. Let us get down to the places where your ear mostly gets affected.
- Outer ear infections (swimmer’s ear): A ‘swimmer’s ear,’ is referred to as the infection in the outer ear (otitis externa). Here, it is the bacterial infection of the skin tissue that covers the ear canal. Regular swimmers often suffer from this problem. People who injure the ear canal by using cotton swabs in the canal to get rid of ear wax, also suffer from this kind of ear infection.
- Middle ear infections: A middle ear infection affects the area right behind the eardrum (tympanic membrane). Here, the pus gets entrapped in the adjacent hollow cavity or the middle ear space of the facial bone. This is an infection that most often affects young children, because of a common cold. Middle ear infections are more often caused by viruses and get resolved on their own. However, you need an antibiotic treatment course to treat an ear infection caused by
- Inner ear infections: Inner ear infections are not very common and are very often virus-caused. An inflammation of the structures of the inner ear (labyrinthitis) usually causes an infection to flare up in the ear. When your inner ear gets affected, you sometimes have symptoms such as vertigo, tinnitus, dizziness and so on. You may even have hearing problems. For this kind of infection, you need immediate medical attention.
What are the Ear Infection Symptoms?
Some of the common outer (swimmer’s ear) and middle ear infection symptoms and signs are the following,
- Mild to chronic ear pain
- Hearing problems
- Redness and inflammation
- Pus draining from the ear
- Mild to acute itching
A few of the middle and inner ear infection symptoms and signs are the following,
- Problems with balance
- The feeling of fullness or heaviness in the ear.
A few inner ear infection symptoms and signs are the following,
- Nausea and vomiting
- Tinnitus (or ringing in the ear)
How to Treat an Ear Infection at Home?
You can treat both outer and middle ear infections at home with natural home remedies and over-the-counter medication for symptoms such as pain and inflammation.
The first thing to avoid while treating swimmer’s ear is to stop the source of infection, which is that you have to stop swimming and take care not to let water inside the ear canal until the pain subsides.
Though the infection takes time to heal, the pain goes away in a week. You can get an ear infection during the summer months.
How to Treat a Middle Ear Infection at Home
It is usually noted that viruses cause middle ear infections. The ear pain takes time to go, at least two or three days, and it is a sign that your body’s natural immune system tries to fight and cure the infection, much like the common cold. People suffering from middle ear infection sometimes have to get it treated by a medical practitioner when the condition progressively worsens.
People may think that earaches are just a minor nuisance, but they can cause debilitating pain. While waiting for medical care or for antibiotics to work, some home remedies can help.
Ear pain is sometimes unbearable, your quality of life gets affected and daily chores seem like an uphill task. Children find it particularly hard to deal with ear pain. So, it is important to treat ear infections with earache remedies. This can provide you with instant relief, and help people deal with the acute pain. However, if symptoms do not go away with home remedies, you have to get it treated by a doctor.
Ear Infection Causes
Ear infections are the most common cause of ear pain. When your ear infection gradually increases, there is mild to severe inflammation causing a buildup of pressure that can cause pain that can intensify with time.
People with ear infections sometimes have other symptoms that may not seem like they are linked to ear problems. A few of the symptoms are sinus pressure or a sore throat, you may not feel that these may come from an ear infection, but the truth is that infections from surrounding areas may also infect the ear. Ear infections are usually bacterial, not viral. Find out a few of the other reasons for ear pain.
- Referred pain: In this case pain or inflammation emanates from another part of the body. For instance, a toothache may lead to aching pain in the ear.
- Acute to chronic conditions: Conditions such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction may lead to chronic ear pain.
- Skin infections: particularly the ones that develop near the ear.
- Allergic reactions: A trigger such as soap, shampoo, or earrings can lead to allergic reactions and hence an earache.
- Pressure: Changes in altitude, such as traveling in the air can affect pressure in the ears. This is a condition usually resolved with a popping sound and on its own.
Ear infections can start in a harmless way, but can gradually spread to the jaw and other areas of the body. This may even lead to ear damage and uncontrollably high fevers.
Ear Pain Relief Home Remedies
Home remedies are a relief, especially as they are easily available and sometimes provide immediate relief. Seek out these 10 home remedies to treat ear infections. Although painkillers are always an alternative when the pain gets too severe, home remedies are a safer and more natural option to try.
- Apply heat
Heat application is one of the more effective ways of reducing inflammation and pain in the ear. You can buy a heating pad at a store near you or online too, whichever is more convenient for you.
Use the hot pad to apply heat for 20 minutes, not only to your ear but the surrounding areas as well, such as the neck and throat with the hot pad.
Take care that the heating pad is not too hot, as it may scald you, and remember when you are administering the same to your child, you have to be even more careful.
A cold pack is as effective as a hot pack to get relief from an earache and is one of the top home remedies for ear pain.
You can use paper towels for this particular ear therapy. Wrap ice in paper towels or use a freezing cold pack while you cover it with a light cloth. Apply this on your ear and the area around for 20 minutes. Ensure that cold is not too uncomfortable and be mindful of your kid’s sensitized skin. You can alternate between hot and cold packs too, this is as effective for ear aches, if not more.
- Ear drops
How do ear drops help in reducing pressure in the ear? Ear drops can help reduce pressure in the ear usually caused by fluid and earwax. You can buy them over the counter or even online. But before trying out any medications, do read out the directions carefully and it is important you talk it out with your doctor, especially when you are trying it on a young child.
Also, randomly selecting any ear drops may not turn out to be a good alternative to prescription medication. So, don’t use them for extended periods of time. Also, be very careful of the symptoms, and if they still persist, you have to get it checked by a medical practitioner. Do not use ear drops on a child whose has tubes inserted in their ears or whose eardrum has ruptured.
A massage a day can keep most health issues at bay, and earaches are no different. A gentle massage is particularly useful in pain relief, especially the pain that radiates from the jaw or teeth, something that gives you a tension headache. It is a potent ear infection treatment.
Be gentle with yourself, or whoever you are administering the massage to. Massage the surrounding muscles with a sort of gentle kneading. If the area behind your ear hurts, try and massage the jaw and the neck area. It is the easiest way to get rid of earaches. Use a downward motion and gently prod behind the ears and slowly down the neck. Continue to work downwards and in the front of the ears. This type of massage helps to drain out the excess fluid accumulating in the ears that causes pain.
Eating a clove of garlic a day may help treat many infections, even ear infections.
Garlic has been an integral part of folk medicine for years to treat any kind of pain. Garlic has antimicrobial properties that are effective in the fight against infections. Garlic is also known as a natural antibiotic and can accelerate the healing process.
Sometimes garlic ear drops are also greatly effective in reducing pain and prevent an infection from getting chronic. There is another way you can treat ear infections by using garlic. Cook two or three cloves, crush them and cook them in two tablespoons of either mustard or sesame seed oil until they turn brown, then strain the mix. Then, apply a drop of this concoction in each ear.
Onions are another way of fighting an ear infection, much like garlic. They can help fight infection and minimize pain. Try the following remedy for an earache.
Heat an onion in the microwave for a few minutes. Then, strain the liquid and administer several drops of this liquid to the ear. Lie down for at least 10 minutes and for the liquid to flow out of the ear. Repeat this as often as required.
- Olive Oil
One of the reasons you have an ear infection is because of accumulation of ear wax; and when the ear wax is attacked by a fungal or bacterial growth, it leads to a blockage in the Eustachian tubes. Cleaning this obstruction is fairly simple, especially with the use of olive oil.
Warm up the olive oil on a stove and dribble it into the infected ear. This will soften the earwax and then it will be easily removable with a cotton swab. Take care not to insert the cotton swab too deep as it may potentially damage the eardrum.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a cure for all ailments, well almost all. As your grandmother will say, keep a bottle ready in your kitchen pantry. But do get the one that is organic, undiluted, with the mother culture, as this is the one which is the most effective. It has an acquired taste, most people do not take to the taste of ACV, but you know what, it boasts of a number of benefits. It has antibacterial and antifungal characteristics, which work against viruses that lead to an ear infection.
Combine one part apple cider vinegar with one part water. Saturate a cotton ball in the solution and place the same in your affected ear and let it sit for a few minutes, say five minutes. Now, remove the cotton ball and lay down on the opposite side so that any residual vinegar drains from your ear. Dry your ear with a hair dryer set on low temperatures.
You can even try the above remedy with the help of white vinegar if you do not have ACV at your disposal. If your ear infection is emanating from Eustachian tubes, you can try gargling with apple cider vinegar as well.
Salt is one of the most effective ear infection treatments. Heat up one cup of salt over low heat for a couple of minutes. Keep the warm salt in a clean and soft cloth. Tie the end of the cloth with a rubber band. When the cloth temperature is under tolerable limits, lie down and place the same on the affected ear for about ten minutes. Repeat this procedure daily to get the results you want. This draws out the fluid from the ear and helps you deal with pain and swelling.
Basil is a therapeutic herb that has many healing properties. It is antioxidant rich and boasts of antibacterial properties. Crush four to five leaves of basil to expel the juice. Apply the basil juice on and around the affected ear. Be careful that the juice does not get into your ear canal.
You can try another option that works great, combine a few drops of holy basil oil with an equal amount of coconut oil, dip the cotton wool into the mixture. Wipe the inside part of your ear, around the outside of the ear, and behind the ear with this absolutely potent mixture.
Earache Remedies – Prevent and Treat
Before trying out any of the home remedies, learn how can you stop the infection from spreading in the first place.
- Using a blow-dryer post-shower is a wonderful way to dry your ears
- Protect your ear with a scarf, when you venture outside
- Try chewing gum when you are traveling in an airplane
- Drink lots of water every, single, day
- Avoid indulging in sugary foods, especially processed sugar
- Quit smoking
- Control your alcohol intake
- Eat healthily, add more fruits and veggies into your diet.
Following the above home remedies for ear infection can help you get rid of them if you catch the infection early. But as we always say, if the symptoms persist, get yourself checked by a doctor.