You know the feeling. You wake up one morning with a throbbing ear that feels like it’s ready to explode at any instant.
Your hearing is gone in that ear, and you’ve probably got an annoying headache to add insult to injury.
You’ve just woken up with an ear infection. While they are incredibly common in small children who are still building their immune system, it’s not quite as common in adults. That means when we do get them, they are that much more painful and aggravating.
Since they aren’t as common, ear infections are often misunderstood. Today we’re going to take a look at some of the symptoms and causes of ear infections. Then we’ll go over what you can do to prevent future instances and even review some simple home remedies to help you get through your day.
Otitis media, more commonly known as an ear infection, is most often the result of a viral infection of the middle ear. The middle ear is deep within your ear behind your eardrum and shares the same air passageways as your sinuses and your respiratory tract, and is thus exposed to many of the germs that you breathe in on a daily basis.
These germs often settle right in the warm, slightly damp area of the middle ear, as it offers the perfect conditions. Your body then recognizes the germs and sends a bunch of white blood cells and fluid into the area to combat the germs. This is what causes the painful swelling and throbbing sensation.
Ear infections can range from minorly irritating to extremely painful depending on the severity of the infection and how long you’ve been sick for. Often ear infections can accompany the common cold, flu, sinus infections, and respiratory infections as well.
If you have an ear infection, you will probably know it. Here are some of the most common symptoms that you may experience:
Ear infections are almost always caused by a viral infection. The inside of your ear is a perfect place for germs to make their home. It’s warm, slightly damp, and shielded from the elements. Since your inner-ear is connected to the rest of your respiratory system, it’s very easy for a virus to find its way into your ear.
However, there are certain conditions which can increase the likelihood of you contracting an ear infection, to begin with. Let's take a few minutes to go over those:
Unfortunately, there is no foolproof way to stop yourself from ever getting an ear infection. They are the result of a common virus similar to the common cold and are often caused by the very same viruses.
The best way to avoid getting an ear infection is to do your best to stay out of the way of germs. Try not to walk right through where somebody just sneezed or coughed, use hand sanitizer, and don’t don’t share earbuds with others.
One of the most important ways you can prevent an infection is to keep your ears protected, especially during the cold season. When you go outside, wear ear muffs or a hat to keep the cold air from blowing directly into your ear.
Also if you’re going to be swimming a public pool often, consider investing in some watertight earplugs so that germs and bacteria can’t find their way into your inner-ear.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Well that’s great for next time, but my ear is hurting now. How do I treat it?”
Don't worry, we've got you covered. Thankfully there are quite a few ear infection treatment methods available. Sometimes the infection is mild enough just to wait it out, but other times, they can be very painful and get in the way of many of your daily activities.
If you are experiencing severe pain, you should definitely visit the doctor. Sometimes the middle ear infection can become so swollen that you risk damaging your eardrum if you forego treatment.
In most cases, your doctor will usually prescribe you an oral antibiotic, some prescription ear drops and may recommend a steroid shot to calm the swelling and prevent damage.
If your ear infection isn’t severe enough to warrant a doctor’s visit, there are quite a few home remedies for ear infections that you can try with typical kitchen ingredients. Let’s look at a few.
Ear infections can be a pain, but thankfully they usually only last a few days at a time. Remember to always consult your doctor before trying any home remedies, and if you are experiencing severe pain, make sure you schedule an immediate appointment with your doctor. Severe swelling left untreated can cause significant damage.