The term 'otitis' refers to inflammation of the ear. An ear infection is one of the common reasons behind visits to the pediatricians' office. While ear infection are very common in infants and young children, adults too can sometimes suffer from ear pain, muffled hearing and discomfort in the ear due to this ear problem. There are a few home remedies that could help in alleviating these symptoms. Let us have a look at the types of ear infections before we go into the details of home treatment for the same.
Types of Ear Infections
The three types of infections affecting the ears include:
Otitis externa or External Otitis
This is also called "Swimmer's ear". The protective film on the top of the ear canal or lipid layer is removed. This canal looks ruddy and swollen. Such a condition arises when water, dirt, sand or some debris enters the ear canal. Malignant external otitis may form when bacteria attacks the bones in the ear canal and spreads to the base of the skull.
Otitis media or Middle Ear Infection
The middle ear lies behind the eardrum and is a small cavity filled with air. Infections that lead to sore throats, colds or breathing problems spread to the middle ear and cause otitis media. When bacteria or viruses enters the middle ear, the area is filled with fluid containing germ fighting cells. The patient gets a feeling that the ear is a balloon about to pop and experiences a lot of pain. This infection generally occurs in children.
Otitis interna or Labyrinthitis
This affects the inner ear. This part of the ear has sense organs for hearing and balance. These organs are inflamed and the person feels as if the room is spinning.
For swimmer's ear, the following home remedies would prove useful:
- If the infection is mild, avoiding swimming and washing hair for some time.
- Topical solutions containing antibacterial or antifungal antibiotics acidify the ear and suppress bacterial growth
- If there is severe soft tissue swelling, then oral antipseudomonal antibiotics are prescribed
- Drops containing anti-inflammatory steroids enable to minimize swelling and itching
- removing debris like wax, pus and shed skin from the ear canal causes direct contact of the medication with the infected skin and hastens recovery
For children having middle ear infection, the home remedies are as follows:
- Antibiotics like Amoxicillin, Septra, Ceclor, Bactrim, Augmentin, Pediazole and Suprax will result in improvement in forty-eight to seventy-two hours. However, these must be taken till the entire infection has disappeared
- Analgesics like Acetaminophen assuage the pain and fever
- Sinus or nasal congestion is overcome by an antihistamine and/or decongestants
Other remedies include:
- Increasing zinc intake to reduce ear infections
- Increasing vitamin C to prop up the immune system for tackling infection
- Arranging a healthy diet with large amount of calcium
- Avoid eating processed foods and hydrogenated oils
- Avoid passive smoking and contact with people having cold
- Avoid touching nose and ears
- Wash hands periodically
Before the advent of antibiotics, people used home remedies for ear infections. Most of these remedies were quite effective and helped treat mild infections. Some of these useful home cures include:
- Pressing a warm water bottle or warm bag of salt against the ear. This will help relieve the pain.
- Put drops of tea tree oil in the ear, as it has mild anti-bacterial properties, but could irritate the skin. This essential oil will help cure mild bacterial infections.
- Garlic juice is an age-old remedy that helps cure microbial infections of the ear. Just put 2 to 3 drops of garlic juice in the ear and lie down on your side for some time. This will help the juice drain down into the ear and reach the point of infection.
- Avoid ear candles to remove wax from the ear. This is because it may push the infection deeper into the ear as you try to clean the outer ear.
Sometimes, the following home remedies may prove useful:
- Goldenseal and echinacea are herbs that cleanse the body.
- Consumption of dairy products must be avoided.
- Essential oils like peppermint and eucalyptus are mixed with hot steaming water in a bowl. A towel is held over the head and the steam is inhaled
- Elevate the mattress and do not use pillows to place under the head. This will help in draining the fluids from the ear.
Although, you must be sure of the symptoms of ear infections, we shall enlist a few to be sure of your problem. If children have an ear infection, the symptoms are:
- Fluid drains from the ears
- Headache with ear infection
- Failure to respond to sounds
- Trouble to sleep
- Pulling of the ears
- sensation of fullness in the ear
- moderate to severe pain
- hearing loss
In case of middle ear infection, the symptoms are:
- Loss of appetite
- Pain or discomfort in the ear
- Nasal congestion
- Severe whirling nausea
If your infection does not get cured within 5 to 7 days, visit an ENT specialist at the earliest. Do not take them lightly as it is the question of your hearing ability. Also, do not try any home treatment, without consulting your doctor.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.