Earache: causes, treatment and prevention

Earache is sharp, dull or burning ear pain that comes and goes or is constant. Earache is a common problem, particularly in children. It’s usually only caused by a minor infection and will often get better in a few days without treatment. One or both ears may be affected.

Causes of Earache

Causes of earaches can include:

  • Ear infections
  • Change in pressure, such as when flying on a plane
  • Earwax buildup
  • A foreign object in the ear
  • Throat infection
  • Sinus infection
  • Shampoo or water trapped in the ear
  • Use of cotton swabs in the ear
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Arthritis affecting the jaw
  • Infected tooth
  • Eczema in the ear canal

Home Remedies

You can take several steps at home to reduce earache pain. Try these options to ease the ear pain

  • Apply cold or warm compresses.
  • Avoid getting the ear wet.
  • Sit upright to help relieve ear pressure.
  • Use over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops.
  • Take OTC pain relievers.
  • Chew gum to help relieve pressure.
  • Feed an infant to help them relieve their pressure.
  • Put some olive oil in ear.
  • Use naturopathic drops.

When to see a doctor

If you or your child has a persistent fever of 102ºF or higher, seek medical attention. You should also watch for other symptoms. If any of the following symptoms appear, make an appointment with your doctor:

  • severe ear pain
  • dizziness
  • bad headache
  • swelling around the ear
  • drooping of the facial muscles
  • blood or pus draining from the ear

You should also make an appointment with your doctor if an earache gets worse or doesn’t improve in 24 to 48 hours.

Prevention of Earache

Some earaches may be preventable. Try these preventive measures:

  • Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke.
  • Keep foreign objects out of the ear.
  • Dry the ears after swimming or bathing.
  • Avoid allergy triggers, such as dust and pollen.

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