What is earache?

An earache is represented by a varied level of pain in the inner ear. Earaches are often caused by a bacterial or viral infection, moving into higher altitudes, or wax buildup.

If an earache lasts for longer than 24 hours, it is best to see a doctor. They can check if there is an underlying problem that is causing the pain.

Fever, swelling of the ear, weakness in the face muscles, and dizziness can sometimes occur with an earache. These symptoms may need further medical attention.

Earaches can often be a symptom of larger conditions. These conditions include:

  • Swimmer's ear: This condition occurs when the ear is exposed to too much moisture, usually from swimming. If the ear is damp for a long time, the risk of bacteria growing in the ear increases. When a bacterial infection occurs, it can lead to swimmer's ear.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: The lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system. When there's an infection, these glands can sometimes become enlarged. As some lymph nodes are found behind the ears, it's possible that their swelling can cause an earache.
  • Upper respiratory tract infection: This is one of the most common viral infections and causes coughing, sneezing, and sometimes earache.
  • Headache: The increased pressure that builds up in the head during a headache can sometimes cause pain in the ear.
     

10 remedies for earache

Even if an earache is part of a larger issue, it is possible to reduce pain with both natural and medical methods. Here are 10 remedies for reducing earache.

1. Ice pack
Holding an ice pack or cold, damp washcloth to the ear for 20 minutes may help numb ear pain and reduce any potential inflammation that is causing it.

2. Garlic
Garlic is a natural remedy for earache that's been used for thousands of years. Allicin, a compound in garlic, is said to be helpful in fighting bacterial infections that may be causing an earache.

Eating raw garlic is said to help reduce ear pain. However, garlic may interfere with antibiotics, so it should only be eaten alongside medical advice. Garlic is also said to be a natural pain reliever.

3. Heating pad
A heating pad or hot cloth held against the ear for 20 minutes may be helpful for temporary pain relief. While cold temperatures may help numb pain and reduce inflammation, a heating pad can relax the muscles and help improve blood flow.

4. Ear drops
Over-the-counter remedies can be successful for some people, especially those that have tried natural methods. Many over-the-counter medications shouldn't be used by people whose eardrum has ruptured. Some people may also need to check with their doctor to make sure their chosen remedy won't interfere with any currently prescribed medications.

5. Pain relievers
Pain relievers like ibuprofen can help control pain caused by earache. These medications shouldn't be used to mask pain, however, especially if the earache is associated with a bigger underlying condition.

6. Sleep in an upright position
Sleeping in an upright position is often advised to help reduce the buildup of pressure in the ear.

7. Chew gum
If an earache occurs during or after plane travel or moving to higher elevations, chewing gum may help "pop" the ears and reduce pressure.

8. Distraction
One of the best methods for reducing the feeling of pain, particularly among children, is to distract the mind from the earache. Games, television, or exercise can help reduce attention on earache.

9. Chiropractic
One earache remedy is chiropractic, an alternative health approach. Chiropractic seeks to reduce pain and other health conditions by working with the muscles and bones. It is believed that earache can be caused by the misalignment of the upper neck bones. A chiropractor may be helpful for bringing these bones back "in line," helping to reduce earache.

10. Myringotomy (ear tubes)
Long-term ear infections are often treated with myringotomy. This is a surgical incision that installs ear tubes into the ears. These tubes help drain fluid and relieve pressure.

Causes of earache

There are numerous risk factors that can lead to the development of earache.
Swimmer's ear, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches can cause earache but aren't the only conditions that cause the issue. Additional causes of earache include:

  • Earwax buildup
  • Temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ)
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Tooth infection
  • Water or shampoo that gets stuck in the ear
  • Pressure changes when entering places of high elevation

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