Ear pain is a common symptom that can emerge with no apparent cause or infection. Many times, it occurs due to prolonged exposure to cold or due to increase ear pressure from a cold.
It is not always necessary to treat ear pain specifically with antibiotics or other medications. You can try simple home methods to relieve discomfort in both children and adults. Ear pain tends to worsen at night or with conditions like sinusitis or allergies.
After trying these methods, if pain still persists for more than 2 or 3 days, you should see a doctor for assessment. He or she can rule out if an infection is present and if it requires treatment with specific antibiotics.
1. Warm compress
A simple warm compress will provide sufficient heat to increase circulation within the ear which may help to relieve any congestion. To use this simple technique, place a clean, hot towel over the ear for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure it is not hot enough to burn the skin. This is a great way to relieve ear pain in children, as it does not cause any discomfort.
Another option is to place a blow dryer at its lowest setting a few centimeters or an inch from the ear, so that you do not burn the skin. This method is especially useful after swimming, as it also helps to dry the ear canal.
2. Chewing gum
Chewing gum is one of the easiest ways to relieve ear pain. The movement involved with chewing helps to massage the muscles surrounding the ear, which helps to open the Eustachean tubes. These tubes are small canals that connect the throat to the ear, which aid in removal of discharge that accumulates within the ear.
3. Applying ice
Although in most cases, a warm compress can provide more relief, there are also situations in which pain can be reduced with a cold compress. Apply cold to the ear can reduce any present swelling, which helps to relax nerve endings in the ear.
To use a cold compress, place ice inside a plastic bag and wrap with a clean towel. You can apply this compress over the ear. You should never apply the bag of ice or even the ice directly on the ear, especially in children or older adults, as this can burn the skin.
4. Massaging the area
A light massage over the affected ear is a simple way to relieve ear pain, especially when it occurs due to stressful situations. The massage can help to relax any tense muscles that are contracted due to stress.
To complete a massage you, should stroke the skin around the ear up and down with your thumb using light pressure, and descending all the way down to the neck. Then repeat the movement toward the front of the ear.
5. Stretching the neck
Stretching the neck is another option to relax the muscles and alleviate ear pain, especially when it occurs due excess stress. One of the most effective stretches is keeping your back straight, and without turning your body, turning your neck to one side and holding for 10 to 15 seconds and then alternating.
Another stretch consists of looking forward, and tilting your head to the side, touching your ear to your shoulder. You can further stretch the neck in this position, by placing your hand over the opposite ear as shown above. You can hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds and repeat on the other side.
When to go to the doctor
In most cases, ear pain is not a serious symptom and can be relieved at home. You should see a doctor when:
- Pain that does not improve within 2 to 3 days
- With other symptoms like fever, intense headache or dizziness
- If you see any discharge or fluid coming out of the ear
- Difficulty opening the mouth
In these cases, an infection is possible and therefore appropriate treatment with antibiotics is necessary.