Earache? Here Are 5 Remedies You Can Do at Home
Is an earache keeping you awake at night, or is your little one pulling on their ear? We’ve all experienced an earache or ear infection at one time or another, and while they can be bothersome and unpleasant, there are things you can do at home to help ease the discomfort. Ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Emily Burke shares five things you can do to treat mild earaches.
What causes an earache?
Common causes of ear pain can include ear wax impaction, otitis externa (more commonly known as an outer ear infection or “swimmer’s ear”), otitis media (which is a middle ear infection or infection behind the eardrum), eustachian tube dysfunction (a muffled or fullness in the ear), or temporomandibular joint inflammation (which is pain of the jaw joint and surrounding muscles).
There are also many causes of ear pain not caused by the ear itself, which may include salivary gland, tongue, tonsils, or laryngeal issues. You may need to see an ear, nose and throat specialist to determine if your ear is the source of the problem. If ear pain is accompanied by hearing loss, you should see your doctor right away.
Here are 5 things you can try at home:
Over-the-counter pain relievers
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help relieve pain and fever. These medications can be used by both kids and adults. It’s important to note that not all over-the-counter medications are safe for children, especially babies. Be sure that the appropriate dosage is given for their age. The Centers for Disease Control recommends following these guidelines:
- Children younger than 6 months: only give acetaminophen.
- Children 6 months or older: you can give acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
- Never give aspirin to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome, although rare, is a very serious condition that can harm the liver and brain.
Over-the-counter ear drops can be helpful when used properly, but caution should be taken in patients who have a previous history of ear infections, ear tubes, or ear surgeries. If you or your child has an outer ear infection, commonly known as swimmer’s ear, using fluid-drying eardrops might help. Using fluid-drying eardrops is not appropriate for people who have ear tubes. They also shouldn’t be used if there is fluid coming from your ear or if your eardrum is ruptured. Before using eardrops for you or your child, it’s a good idea to check with your doctor to make sure they’re safe.
Heat can help in reducing pain or throbbing from an earache. Soak a washcloth in warm water, wring out the excess water and then hold it against your ear for up to 20 minutes. If this helps in easing the pain, you can reapply the compress throughout the day. You can also use a heating pad but do so on a low setting and always supervise a child who is using one. Hot compresses can also be alternated with cold compresses.
Using hydrogen peroxide in your ears can help with an earache. Place a few drops of hydrogen peroxide in your affected ear and let it sit for a few minutes. You will feel and hear a bubbling sensation within your ear. After a few minutes, tilt your head over a sink to let the peroxide drain. It’s important not to use too much hydrogen peroxide or repeat the procedure too frequently, as it can cause irritation or inflammation.
Sleeping and resting can strengthen your immune system and helps your body fight off infections and other sickness. It’s best not to sleep on your infected ear – and not just because it’s uncomfortable. Elevating the affected ear makes it easier for the infection to drain out. So, sleep on your other side or tuck a few extra pillows under your head if sleeping on your back.
When should I see a doctor?
It is always best to seek the care of an ENT for ear-related issues, as they have the most expertise in evaluating the causes of ear pain and managing those issues. If you experience a fever of 102.2 or higher, pus or fluid draining from your ear, hearing loss or worsening symptoms, you should seek medical care as soon as possible.
You might not need to see a doctor for an earache if the discomfort is mild. If your earache does not require antibiotics, further treatment might not be necessary, and these home remedies can help with symptom relief. Never insert cotton swabs or other objects into your ear canal, as these can cause damage and can push infected fluid farther into your ear. If your ears are feeling wet, a hairdryer set on a cool setting is a good option for drying the ear. If you or your child has frequent ear infections or chronic earaches, usually four within a year, ask your doctor if ear tubes might be a good option.
To learn more about Dr. Emily Burke, or to make an appointment, click here.