February 7th, 2008
The thing about writing about getting rid of ear aches is this: an ear ache can be a symptom of many infectious diseases and/or disorders, serious ones too. But, you don't want to go to the emergency room every time you get an ear ache, because they're usually just the result of an ear infection—which is nothing to laugh at either. So, you have to take a measured approach to the subject of how to get rid of an ear ache, and I'll start by suggesting that you go see a doctor as soon as you can, especially if you've been suffering from recurrent ear aches. This is particularly true if the person suffering from an earache is an infant or young child. The suggestions for relieving earache pain offered here are for educational purposes only—you just need to be aware that self-diagnosing and self-treating an earache can be dangerous.
An acute ear ache is usually caused by an outer ear infection (external otitis) or a middle ear infection (otitis media), while a recurrent ear ache can be a symptom of something more significant. If you are suffering from an acute ear ache that lasts more than 3 hours or a mild ear ache that lasts more than a day or if you've recently suffered some sort of trauma to your ear, you should go see a doctor. Now, with all of that said, we should move on to home ear ache remedies.
Home Ear Ache Remedies
If you're trying to get rid of an earache, the first thing you should try is plain old Tylenol. When I say plain old Tylenol, I mean Acetaminophen. You don't want to be taking Ibuprofen or Aspirin when you've got an earache because these medicines may, in very rare circumstances, cause more pain or ringing in the ears—what the medical community calls tinnitus. Also, you don't want to give Aspirin to a child because of the potential risk for inducing something called Reyes syndrome, an inflammation of tissue in the brain, especially if they're suffering from a fever.
If basic pain medication like Acetaminophen isn't getting rid of your ear ache, you can try Auralgan. Auralgan is a local anesthetic that can be applied directly to the ear canal that is causing you pain. It's a relatively innocuous drug, and you can find it at any reputable drug store or pharmacy--probably even online. This solution is good for people who don't tolerate oral painkillers well, like people who suffer from ulcers or acid reflux.
Mineral oil is the home remedy when it comes to getting rid of an ear ache. It's only effective if you're suffering from an external ear infection, however, or what we like to call "swimmers ear," which is usually caused by a build up of bacteria due to an excess of moisture in the ear. What you don't want to do is apply mineral oil if you have a perforation in your ear drum or if you have drainage plugs implanted in your ear drums. Otherwise, mineral oil will usually do the trick for minor ear aches, swimmers ear, or otitis externa. It will help shed water from the ear and protect the sensitive lining of your ear canal. It's also good at loosening up ear wax.
While you're waiting for the mineral oil to take care of your ear ache, you may want to try a decongestant as well. Decongestants are good because they help promote drainage. This is particularly helpful if you're suffering from a middle ear infection, or if the ear ache seems to be caused more by pressure or a fullness in your ear. If you're diagnosed with either an external ear infection or a middle ear infection, chances are your doctor will prescribe or suggest a decongestant as a treatment complimentary to antibiotics.
Finally, if you're still not getting much relief from your ear ache, you may want to try a warm compress over your ear. Really, anything soft and warm that you can lay over your ear will help relieve pain and pressure, but most often this is either accomplished with a typical hot/cold pad purchased at a drug store, or it's done by soaking a small towel in boiling water and applying it to the ear once it's been allowed to cool to a reasonably comfortable temperature.
How to Prevent Ear Aches
Really, if you're going to avoid having to get rid of an earache while saving money on your hospital bills, you'll want to do what you can to prevent earaches from occurring in the first place. Sometimes this isn't possible, and if you suffer from recurrent earaches you should probably see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist. However, there are several things you can do to avoid this uncomfortable situation in the future:
- Stop putting things in your ear. This includes cotton-tipped swabs, finger nails, and any sharp objects, even those "patented devices" you come across from time to time.
- Blow your nose gently, and avoid people who are suffering from upper respiratory infections (head and chest colds).
- Avoid cigarette smoke at all costs. Long-term smokers are more susceptible to getting ear infections and the consequent ear aches, and most people are allergic to cigarette smoke in the first place.
- Wear ear plugs when you go swimming. When you're done wearing your ear plugs, clean them with rubbing alcohol and make sure they stay dry when in storage.
- Flush your ears with vinegar and water or rubbing alcohol and water after showering or swimming. If you have drainage plugs in your ears or a perforated ear drum, you may want to try drying your ears with a blow dryer set on low heat.