The ear is a complicated part of the body, made up of several different chambers. Ear infections can strike in any one of these chambers and cause various symptoms. The three main parts of the ear are known as the inner, middle, and outer ear. An ear infection occurs when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle ear — the sections of your ear just behind the eardrum. Ear infections can be painful because of inflammation and fluid build-up in the middle ear.
Middle ear infection
A middle ear infection often originates from a cold or other respiratory problem. The infection moves to one or both ears through the eustachian tubes. These tubes regulate air pressure inside your ear. They connect to the back of your nose and throat.
An infection can irritate the eustachian tubes and cause them to swell. Swelling can prevent them from draining properly. When fluid inside these tubes can’t drain, it builds up against your eardrum.
Symptoms of ear infection
In most cases, the symptoms of a middle ear infection (otitis media) develop quickly and resolve in a few days. This is known as acute otitis media. The main symptoms include:
- Earache: The most distinctive and telling symptom of ear infection is pain in the ear. It manifests as a mild to moderate ache in the inside of the ear. It may be continual or sporadic, with a dull throbbing intensity or a sharp, shooting severity.
- A high temperature (fever): One of the first signs of infection or illness in children is a high fever. Since children have smaller bodies and they are sensitive to warmth and cold, children tend to run high fevers for a host of problems, including ear infections. Adults also may run a fever if there are infections in the body of any kind.
- Problems with Hearing: When there is fullness in the ear, hearing also tends to get impeded. This is because infection causes an alteration of the air-pressure within the middle ear causing the eardrum to be under stress. All of this, when occurring together causes a problems with clear hearing. In most cases however the hearing loss is mild though if left unchecked for several days, may intensify gradually.
- Irritation: As mentioned previously, one of the most common symptoms of an ear infection is irritation of the ear. The buildup of bacteria in the ear can cause the skin to become red and highly sensible. You may feel a sudden urge to scratch the ear, but you should avoid contact with the skin at all costs, as this may cause bleeding and worsening of the infection. Moreover, you may experience a feeling of fullness in the ear. This is due to the swelling of the ear canal, and may further tempt you to scratch the inside of the ear.
- In some cases, a hole may develop in the eardrum (perforated eardrum) and pus may run out of the ear. The earache, which is caused by the build-up of fluid stretching the eardrum, then resolves.
Treatments of ear infection
A home steam treatment—employing a warm towel and a warm bowl of water near your affected ear—will help open the Eustachian tube (the tube that attaches to the middle ear is where fluid typically builds-up) so the fluid can escape. To prepare, fill a large bowl with boiling water, cover your head with the towel, and hold your ear over the steam bath. You can even add anti-inflammatory herbs like chamomile or tea tree. Just make sure you don’t stay under the towel for too long – 10 or 15 minutes at a time is safest, and if you get lightheaded, stay sitting down until it passes.
For chronic ear infection cases, your child’s doctor may recommend surgical procedures like myringotomy. It is a method to remove the fluid out of the ear using a thin tube.
Olive Oil: One of the main causes of an ear infection is wax in the ear catching some fungal or bacterial growth leading to a blockage in the Eustachian tubes. You can easily clear the obstruction with the help of olive oil.
- Warm some olive oil slightly. Put a few drops of the warm oil into the infected ear.
- The oil will cause the wax to soften. Remove the infected wax with cotton-tipped swabs. Be careful not to put the swab too far in the ear or you might damage the eardrum. Alternatively, you can also use mustard oil.
Boil two-three garlic cloves for five minutes and then crush them. Add some salt to it and warp it in a cloth. Place the cloth on the affected ear for five minutes. It helps ward off earache and ear infections.
See your Doctor
The previous tips are things you can try at home to break up and remove fluid from your ear. Everyone gets sick once and a while and the discomfort of an ear infection can be pretty severe at times. At the very least, plugged ears are uncomfortable, so trying some at-home remedies could help relieve your symptoms a bit before you see your doctor. Because yes, if you suspect an ear infection the best thing you can do right away is schedule an appointment with your doctor. A medical professional has the right tools available to remove fluid in the ear and prescribe the proper antibiotics needed to cure an ear infection.