Most people will experience an ear infection at least once in their lifetime. These infections include painful symptoms along with dizziness and fever. There are many ways you can contract an ear infection.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help eases the pain associated with an ear infection. Read on to discover our favorite home remedies you can use to treat an ear infection. You’ll also learn more about what causes these infections and the different types.
Types of Ear Infection
There are a few different types of ear infection. These are distinguished based on the part of the ear they affect. Ear infections are often accompanied by other infections including the common cold and flu. They may also be a symptom of sinus infections and strep throat.
Inner Ear Infections
Inner ear infections are considered the most serious of ear infections. They almost always require intervention by a medical professional. These types of ear infection are rare and affect the labyrinthitis — the inner portion of the ear. They can affect the Eustachian tubes as well as the cochlea, which regulate balance and movement. Severe infections in the inner ear can lead to hearing loss and other serious side effects.
These infections are most commonly caused by viral infections. Symptoms of an inner ear infection include tinnitus, dizziness, nausea, high fever, and problems with balance.
Middle Ear Infections
Middle ear infections are known by the medical term acute otitis media. Common causes of middle ear infections include viral and bacterial infections such as the common cold and flu. These infections typically occur just behind the eardrum. Symptoms include ear pain and difficulty hearing.
Outer Ear Infections
Outer ear infections are called otitis externa in the medical community. Colloquially, these infections are known as “swimmer’s ear”. These types of ear infection affect the ear canal and are typically bacterial infections. The most common causes of swimmer’s ear are prolonged periods in water and injury to the ear canal. This is why it’s important to never stick foreign objects such as cotton swabs in the ear canal.
Ear infections themselves cannot be transmitted from one person to another. The viruses that cause ear infections, however, can be contagious. To avoid getting an ear infection, make sure to practice proper hygiene. Wash your hands often using an antimicrobial soap. Young children are also more susceptible to contracting ear infections. Breast milk and breastfeeding, in general, are recommended to help build up the child’s immune system.
When prevention doesn’t work, don’t panic. You can treat many of the symptoms caused by ear infections at home using items you already have in your cabinets. Read on to find our favorite home remedies for treating an ear infection.
8 Natural Remedies For Treating An Ear Infection
Home remedies can be used to treat and alleviate symptoms of outer and middle ear infections. Inner ear infections should be examined by a healthcare professional. Read on to find out how you can ease the symptoms of an ear infection at home.
1. Ear Drops
Ear drops can help clear up an infection and target symptoms including pain and discomfort. There are medicated ear drops as well as naturopathic alternatives. Medicated ear drops typically include a pain reliever and infection-fighting ingredients.
Naturopathic ear drops are usually made using herbs, spices, and roots. The extracts of these plants contain antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that can help eliminate infection and soothe the pain. Plants also contain natural anti-inflammatory properties that help to decrease inflammation and reduce pain. A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine examined the effects of naturopathic drops in treating ear pain caused by middle ear infections. The researchers found that naturopathic drops were as effective as anesthetic ear drops in relieving pain (1).
2. Use Warm Oil
Low heat oil can be used to help treat middle ear infections that do not affect the eardrum according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (2). You can use olive oil, coconut oil, or garlic oil to help offer pain relief from an ear infection. The oil should never be heated higher than body temperature, which is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Test the oil using a thermometer before adding it to the ear tubes. You can use a dropper to add a few drops to the ear canal or soak a cotton ball and place that directly inside the ear for a few minutes.
3. Warm Compress
A warm compress can help reduce inflammation and soothe ear pain. To make a warm compress, simply heat a wet towel in the microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. Keep an eye on the temperature and test against the forearm before applying over the ear. You can also use a heating pad or a cold compress if that feels better. Alternate and use as needed throughout the day.
4. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is a powerful essential oil known for its antibacterial properties. The oil also boasts antiseptic and antimicrobial properties (3). Tea tree oil can also help reduce pain caused by an ear infection thanks to its ability to decrease inflammation. Mix a drop of tea tree oil with a few drops of carrier oil such as olive oil before applying to the ear.
5. Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide can be used to help clear out the ear canal and improve symptoms of an ear infection. Simply add a few drops of hydrogen peroxide to the ear. Lay on your opposite side and let the hydrogen peroxide soak into the ear canals. After three to four minutes, get up and let the hydrogen peroxide drain into the sink.
6. Head and Neck Exercises
Ear pain isn’t always caused by an infection. It can also be caused by pressure that builds up in the ear canal. This can happen when there is a fluid build-up in the ears or when experiencing pressure changes. This happens most often when people travel from low altitude locations up to higher altitudes in the mountains. Popping your ears by pinching your nose and puffing out your cheeks can help to alleviate this pressure.
Head and neck exercises can also alleviate built-up pressure. Use your neck muscles to gently roll your head from one side to the other. Move your ear until it is parallel over your shoulder and then alternate sides. Let your head hang forward, aiming to touch your chin to your chest. Repeat as needed until the pressure diminishes.
7. See A Chiropractor
A chiropractic adjustment can help with ear infection treatments by alleviating pressure and pain. A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic sessions resulted in a significant improvement of ear infection symptoms. In fact, there was an improvement in 43 percent of all cases in just one or two sessions. Ninety-three percent of participants who received regular sessions saw significant improvement in ear pain (4).
8. Take Over-The-Counter Pain Relievers
Pain relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help to ease the pain associated with an ear infection. These can be taken every few hours to help diminish pain and make the recovery process more manageable. Do not give aspirin to young children or people under the age of 18 as they have a higher risk of developing Reye’s disease.
Easing Ear Pain
Severe ear problems and chronic ear infections should always be checked out by a physician. Seek medical care from a qualified healthcare professional if your ear pain is unbearable. For severe infections, a doctor may prescribe over-the-counter medications or prescription medications to treat the underlying problem.
Home treatment can be used to alleviate pain and symptoms of an ear infection that are minor to moderate. These earache remedies may not eliminate the underlying infection, but they can help to ease symptoms of pain.