Whether after a swim, because of the air conditioning, or during a cold: earache is now in season. Which helps quickly
What do tooth infections, jaw problems, and colds have in common? They can all be the cause of earache. If there is one thing about an earache, it is multifaceted: It is not always the traditional otitis media behind it. Occasionally, it is the nearby organs that cause the stabbing, throbbing, or dull pain. This article will explain what causes the various earaches when you should see a doctor about them, and which home remedies you can use.
What Are The Causes Of The Earache?
As already mentioned: For earaches, there is no one cause – there are a lot. Some of them occur more often, some less often. Overall, they can be divided into three groups:
- Causes within the ear: inflammatory causes or infections (e.g., otitis media, ear canal furuncles, etc.), foreign bodies (e.g., insects), injuries (e.g., torn eardrum), acute hearing disorders (e.g., hearing loss), earwax plugs, and fluid accumulation (tympanic effusions)
- Causes on the outer part of the ear: inflammation of the auricle (perichondritis),
- Causes elsewhere: TMJ and dental problems, colds, tonsillitis
In general, it can be said that the origin of earache most often lies within the ear. In addition, with the non-ear-related causes, earache rarely occurs alone. With temporomandibular joint problems, you will usually have an earache and local pain in the jaw itself, which then radiates into the ears.
“Prevalent causes are above all inflammation – whether in the area of the ear canal or the area of the middle ear – ear wax drops and fluid accumulation in the area of the middle ear – these are so-called tympanic effusions, in which the middle ear fills with secretions,”.
How Are Earaches Expressed?
The causes of earache are highly varied, but the earache itself is also: “The pain can be dull, but it can also be stabbing, it can be perceived as a feeling of pressure, it can also be accompanied by sensory disturbances – i.e., with a tingling sensation in the area of the ear – and it can come with a crack, “. Itching and burning are also possible. So not all earaches are the same.
The various pains can be bilateral or unilateral. It is also essential that all the different earaches can always occur with a hearing impairment. It is also possible that the various symptoms are mixed up – for example, a stinging sensation can be accompanied by a feeling of pressure, a tingling sensation with sensory disturbances, etc. This is not uncommon because one cause of the disease can trigger another. An otitis media, for example, can also result from a tear in the eardrum, which mixes up the symptoms.
Which Pain Fits Which Cause?
Ultimately, the nature of the pain depends on its cause, but it is not always easy to tell from one to the other. Because as already mentioned: A chain reaction of cause and effect can also lead to a mixture of complaints. And yet: the symptoms are decisive in recognizing the cause. These are the symptoms of the most common ear diseases:
- A Middle Ear Infection usually causes sudden, sharp pain but is often accompanied by pressure. A fever is also not uncommon with otitis media.
- Inflammation Of The Auricle: easy to spot because it is visible to us. Often it is piercings or earrings that trigger the rash. These are the entry point for bacteria. The auricle is discolored red when it is inflamed. In addition to the local pain, the symptoms are fever and chills.
- Fluid Build-Up (Tympanic Effusion): Often occurs as a result of inflammation and causes a hearing impairment due to fluid build-up in the inner ear. Pronounced pain and dizziness are the classic symptoms.
- Foreign Bodies occur more often in children and cause hearing loss, itching, and pain in the ear canal.
- Ear Wax Plug: “It can be incredibly painful because it acutely obstructs the ear canal,” Thus, it is accompanied by a hearing loss but is also noticeable through a dull, pressing pain. Ringing in the ears and dizziness are also possible symptoms.
When Do I Need Medical Treatment If I Have An Earache?
That all depends. Of course, you do not always have to seek medical treatment for earache – this applies, for example, to a bit of water in your ear after swimming or light pressure if you have a cold. However, as a rule of thumb, you can still remember: If the pain has not disappeared after 24 hours, it is time to see a doctor. “Especially when a hearing impairment and dizziness accompany the earache,” says Mechkat. “But going to the practice is also recommended when the sting is powerful.” For a short-term improvement of the symptoms, the doctor will first prescribe painkillers and then initiate targeted measures to combat the cause of the pain.
The many different causes do not make it easy to immediately find the trigger for the pain, especially not as a layperson. That is why a doctor’s visit is essential if the cause is unclear. “Even with children, special care is required,”. “You shouldn’t wait long to visit the practice, especially if you also have a fever.” In general, earache cannot be played down and is dangerous, especially if the symptoms last longer and are particularly painful.
Which Home Remedies Help Against Earache?
Surely you still know the good old onion sachet, maybe also the mustard wrap, two natural and proven home remedies that can relieve ear pain with soothing, anti-inflammatory ingredients. Sounds good. But be careful! Home remedies can soothe your ear and reduce pain, but they don’t work miracles.
Before using it, you should therefore make sure that there is no dangerous disease behind your earache. Because you cannot get severe inflammations and injuries under control with home remedies and – depending on the cause – even worsen the symptoms. So this means: in case of doubt, no experiments. And under no circumstances should you put anything in your ear canal. However, if the cause has been clarified and is not dangerous, you can try to initiate the healing process with these five home remedies:
- Onion Sachets: Onions contain essential oils that have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. In addition, the mustard oils they contain are very effective against inflammation. Mild pain can thus be alleviated very easily. This is how it works: Briefly heat the finely chopped household onions in a pan and then place them in a cloth bag or cotton sock and hold them to your ear. Alternatively, you can put the onions raw in the sack and briefly heat them in the microwave or on a hot wash. Place the warm (not too hot!) Sachet on the affected ear for about one to two hours to cover the bone behind the ear.
- Red Light Lamp: The warm infrared radiation from red light lamp stimulates the blood circulation in the ear and is particularly helpful for chronic ear pain. In addition, it can liquefy ear secretions due to the heat, which allows them to flow away better.
- Decongestant Nasal Drops: “Decongestant nasal drops help if you have an infection with a blocked or blocked nose to optimize the ventilation of the middle ear,” says Dr. Mechkat. The active ingredient xylometazoline in the decongestant nasal drops causes the delicate blood vessels in the nasal mucous membrane to constrict. As a result, the nasal secretions can drain away again.
- Treatment With Table Salt: Table salt is very suitable if cold symptoms accompany the earache. When you clear your stuffy nose, you reduce the pressure on your ears. For example, you can do a nasal rinse with table salt. Gargling with table salt can also help. To do this, mix a teaspoon of regular table salt in 250ml of lukewarm water, let it dissolve, and then gargle for five minutes. You can repeat this every two to three hours.
- Steam Bath With Chamomile: A steam bath with chamomile is a tried and tested traditional home remedy with an anti-inflammatory effect. Already 3000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians used chamomile as a remedy for diseases. It also contains essential oils that help relieve pain. Brew 1-2 tablespoons of chamomile flowers or chamomilla for the steam bath with 1 liter of boiling water. Then, after about five minutes, hold your ear over the steam bath with sufficient space for a few minutes. However, it is essential to keep the distance to protect against burns.
How Can I Prevent Earache?
Targeted prevention of earache is only possible in rare cases – the causes are too varied for that. Nevertheless, you can take steps that at least reduce the risk of earache – especially during activities that repeatedly trigger earache. Here are four tips:
- Don’t Clean Your Ears With Cotton Swabs: Good intention, but your ear won’t thank you for it. Dr. Mechkat: “With cotton swabs, the wax is only plugged deeper into the ear canal. Besides, you don’t get a lot of wax out.” In general, however, you should refrain from any manipulation of the ear canal. So everything in the ear should be left to the ENT doctor. You can generally do without cleaning in the ear because: “With the vast majority of people, the ear canal cleans itself,” says Mechkat. “Cleaning the auricle with your fingers – for example, in the shower – is sufficient for ear hygiene,” adds the ENT doctor.
- Wear Ear Protection When Swimming: Of course, not everyone has to do that. After all, swimming without ear protection for the vast majority only leads to a bit of water in the ear that does not cause pain and drains away quickly. But there is one exception: if you are prone to ear canal infections. “If that is the case, you should – in consultation with your ENT doctor – think about wearing waterproof earplugs,” says Dr. Mechkat. Earmuffs for swimmers protect the ear canal from penetrating water, promoting inflammation in sensitive people. But what applies to everyone: “When getting out of the water, the ear should be dried well with a soft towel,” says Mechkat.
- Treat Colds As Quickly As Possible: the longer you wait, the worse it is for your ears. You should get to the root of the problem and clear your airways as early as possible, so that nasal breathing works properly again. In this way, the accumulated pressure in the ear canal is usually also released.
- Don’t Sit In The Airstream: every summer, we are grateful for our air conditioning – and it should stay that way. But make sure that you are not sitting directly in the draft. “The local cooling down can weaken the local immune system, which means that germs can grow in the ear, which can cause discomfort and even real inflammation,” says Dr. Mechkat. Extra tip: Make sure that your air conditioning system is serviced regularly: “Otherwise, it will quickly become a spinner for mold spores and other bacteria,” warns the doctor.
- Do Not Pull Up your nose when you have a cold: If you keep pulling your nose up when you have a cold, you push the pathogens through the ear trumpet into the middle ear. The result: the pressure in the ear increases, and so does the risk of otitis media.
Do not take earache lightly – there are many different causes. If there is no improvement after 24 hours: seek medical help. However, if the trigger is known and the pain is not that great, home remedies can promote healing. And for the future: do without Q-tips and pay attention to the air conditioning.