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Ear infections are a common cause of discomfort in children as well as in adults. There may be a variety of causes underlying the infection; nevertheless an infected ear is very uncomfortable and sometimes quite painful too. If you are facing ear ache or infection for small periods of time specially in children, then you can use home remedies for ear infection.
Like all other body parts, our ears are also anatomically self-protective i.e. their structure and design are naturally made in such a way that outer foreign particles cannot easily enter the inner ear. The source of infection is thus more commonly from the adjacent inner organs, like a sinus or throat infection can spread to the ear.
Before you understand what are the types of ear infections, you should first know about the ear structure.
The ear can be divided into three parts:
Also called Pinna, it is the outermost slightly tough part.
It is connected to the outer ear through a tube called as external auditory canal which ends in the tympanic membrane, commonly called as the eardrum. It has tiny bones attached to it which vibrate when sound reaches the middle ear. The Eustachian or auditory tube sends fluids from the middle ear to the throat.
It consists of a spiral shaped cochlea, which vibrates in connection with the middle ear and transmits sound vibrations via nerve impulses to the brain. It also consists of the semicircular canals which are fluid filled and convey messages about head position and balance to the brain.
Types of Ear Infections
Here is a brief outline about some of the most common types of ear infections.
It is one of the most common ear infections affecting the middle ear, especially reported in children after a prior respiratory tract infection. Typically, there is viral or bacterial inflammation of the middle ear behind the eardrum. The main symptoms are ear pain and fever, which may be accompanied by some loss in hearing too. It usually subsides without any medication within a few days but may require medical attention if it becomes chronic. Oral antibiotics can help in controlling a severe infection. Another variant called Otitis media with effusion refers to a condition which arises after the acute episode has subsided. There is accumulation of fluid and mucus causing a ‘full’ feeling within the ear and associated with some hearing impairment.
Also known as Otitis Externa, this infection typically attacks the outer ear i.e. the pinna and canal and swells up the ear canal. It is reportedly more common in summer months when people are out for swimming. It is extremely painful and responds well to steroid antibiotic ear drops.
This occurs when there is sudden exposure to loud noise, or sudden alteration in air pressure or a foreign object comes in contact with the eardrum, creating a small hole in it. Though the hole heals by itself in a couple of weeks, it may result in partial or complete deafness.
Inner Ear Infections
These kinds of infections hardly result in any pain, but may cause severe vertigo and tinnitus with hearing loss.
Common Signs of an Ear Infection
The most common symptoms that can be presented during an ear infection are ear pain, repeated tugging, impaired hearing, fluid draining from the ear, fever, headache, sleep discomfort, vertigo and tinnitus and even diarrhea and vomiting.
Home Remedies for Ear Infection
As most of the ear infections commonly occur in conjunction with throat or nose infections, there are a number of home remedies that you can resort to when a child or any adult in the family is suffering from an earache. Such home remedies are the best options when the infection is not so severe and you want to restrict the use of antibiotics for minor issues in children.
Hot Water Compress
Like in other painful infections, a hot compress in the form of a hot water bag or a heating pad can be applied over and around the painful ear. This really helps a great deal in calming down the painful symptoms and gives a great relief. You can also take a hot compress by dipping a clean washcloth in hot water, wring out the excess water and then apply it over the painful ear area.
Olive / Mustard Oil
Since a lot many times, the ear suffers from pain due to solidified wax within it, warm olive or mustard oil can relieve the painful symptoms by thinning out the wax.
- First, warm a few drops of oil.
- Then use a dropper to put a few drops of the warm oil into the ear.
- Use a soft-tipped earbud to gently remove the softened wax. This step should not be done too hard so as to avoid damaging the ear drum.
Garlic / Onions
The anti-bacterial and protective properties of garlic are well known. But the lesser known fact about is that it can be proven highly beneficial in bringing down the symptoms of an ear infection. You can choose to tie garlic in a gauze swab and tie it around the ear with a bandana when the child is sleeping. You can also prepare garlic oil by squeezing out a few drops of garlic juice in olive oil. This can be dropped by an ear dropper for instant relief.
Onions have also been used in a similar fashion to treat ear infections effectively.
Heat a few tbs of salt in a pan and place it in a thin napkin to make a hot salt bag. Compress the salt bag gently on the affected area for a few minutes. The salt bag will absorb the fluid and give a relief from the pain.
Crush a few basil leaves to extract juice. Apply this juice directly on the affected area. However, be careful, that the juice does not enter the ear canal.
Ear Infections in Children
The symptoms of an ear infection can be drastically relieved in a child by elevating the head end of the crib or bed where the child sleeps. Instead of placing a pillow under the child’s head, it is more useful to place it under the mattress under the head side.
You can also choose to breast feed babies till at least 12 months of age to boost their immunity. Bottle position while feeding should be in a semi-upright position to avoid flowing back of milk in the Eustachian tubes.
You can always take certain precautionary measures which help in preventing repeated episodes of ear infection. Stop exposure to secondary smoke by avoiding cigarette smoke inside the house.
The home remedies mentioned above will offer some symptomatic relief and may also cure the infection if not severe. However, it is advisable to consult an ear specialist in case of an acute or chronic ear or if the pain doesn’t subside by itself in 2-3 days.
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