The most common issue you’ll see relating to the ear is pain, especially in children. The ear is divided into 3 chambers, the outer, middle and inner ear. Inflammation and/or infection of the ear is called Otitis. Evaluation of the ear canal is performed with a special instrument known as an otoscope. The most common ear infections will be in the external and middle ear chambers.
Infection of the outer ear canal is called Otitis Externa. This commonly occurs as a result of retained water in the ear canal, which then becomes colonized with bacteria (and, rarely, fungus). The easiest way to prevent this is to carefully use cotton swabs moistened with rubbing alcohol to dry the ear canal after swimming or excessive sweating. The other cause of the problem will be due to some type of trauma to the canal, which could, coincidentally, be caused by injuring the ear with forceful use of a cotton swab! Using an instrument known as an otoscope, you will see redness in the canal and perhaps some discharge. Symptoms of Otitis Externa include:
Gradual development of an earache or, possibly, itching Pain worsened by pulling on the ear Ringing in the ears (tinnitus) or decreased hearing A “full” sensation in the ear canal with swelling Thick drainage from the ear canal
How to Treat an Ear Infection
Home remedies may include a warm compress to the ear to help with pain control. An antibiotic/steroidal ear drop will be useful, and should be applied for 7 days. In order to get the most effect from the medicine, place the drops in the ear with the patient lying on their side. They should stay in that position for 5 minutes to completely coat the ear canal. Severe cases may be treated with oral antibiotics (such as Amoxicillin) and ibuprofen.
The most common cause of earache is an infection of the middle ear, called otitis media. Normally, the eardrum is shiny when viewed with an otoscope. When there is an infection in the middle ear canal, the eardrum will appear dull. This is because there is pus or inflammatory fluid behind it. Besides pain, the patient may feel somewhat off-balance and may run a fever. The ear canal itself may have less redness than in Otitis Externa. In severe cases, the eardrum may actually rupture and milky drainage may be noted. Otitis Media is common in infants and toddlers, and one way to prevent this problem is to make sure to never breast-feed or bottle-feed a baby in a supine (laying down flat) position. Treatment often includes oral antibiotics and ibuprofen, especially in adults.
A number of natural remedies are available for earache. Follow this procedure:
Mix rubbing alcohol and vinegar in equal quantities, or alternatively, hydrogen peroxide
Place 3-4 drops into affected ear
Wait 5 minutes; then, tilt head to drain out the mixture.
Next use either plain warm olive oil, or add 1 drop of any one of these essential oils to 2 ounces of the olive oil: tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme, lavender, garlic, mullein.
Warm the olive oil slightly and place 2-3 drops into the ear canal. This does not have to be drained or removed. A cotton ball with 2 drops of eucalyptus oil may be secured to the ear opening during sleep.
Some patients find a heat source soothing to a painful ear. If you are in a collapse situation, dip a sock or other absorbent material into heated water. Wring it out and place it on the outside of the affected ear.
Integrated medicine involves using all the tools at your disposal. Don’t forget home remedies to treat medical issues; one day, it might be all you have.