General Home Care
General recommendations for any infectious illness apply to people with acute middle-ear infections; they should rest, have plenty of liquids, and be comforted. A heating pad or hot washcloth applied to the ear may help reduce pain.
To help prevent ear infection, avoid nursing or bottle feeding children when they are in a lying position; gravity may allow milk or juice to run into the eustachian tubes, encouraging infection. Allergies may predispose an individual to ear infection by causing inflammation and fluid buildup; identification of the substances that trigger allergic reactions for that person can be helpful.
Beyond Home Care
See "Beyond Home Care" that follows "Otitis Externa."
Otitis Externa (Outer Ear Infection)
External ear infections are essentially skin infections involving the canal that leads from the outer ear to the eardrum, The symptoms of external ear infections often include much ear pain and throbbing due to inflammation. The pain is characteristically aggravated by moving the outer ear, so a helpful way to differentiate between middle ear and external ear infections is to pull on the earlobe. Both types of ear infections can be present at the same time, so you should still use the guidelines in "Beyond Home Care" to decide if medical consultation is needed. Often the ear canal is quite itchy during an external ear infection. If you look into the canal, you can see that it is red and scaly or wet, and a thick discharge may be present. There is usually no fever or general symptoms of illness.
External ear infections do not endanger the organs of hearing, although the discharge and swelling may reduce hearing for a time. As with all skin infections, there is some small danger that the infection will spread aggressively. Rapidly spreading redness or swelling of the outer ear or nearby skin is a danger sign, as is onset of fever.
General Home Care
Gently wash out the accumulated scaling and discharge by placing a piece of cotton soaked in dilute vinegar (half water/half vinegar) or Burow's solution (available at drug stores) in the ear canal, leaving it there for eight to twelve hours. Make sure you can pull the cotton out easily again. Then briefly rinse the canal with warm water, using a bulb syringe. Let the ear drain after this, but put in a drop or two of the vinegar solution every eight hours or so.
Beyond Home Care
Get Medical Care Immediately:
Get Medical Care Today:
- if earache is accompanied by severe weakness, loss of alertness, severe headache, or stiffness of the neck.
See Your Practitioner Soon:
- if a baby begins to pull or rub her ears;
- for any definite earache or any ear discharge in a child under seven years old;
- for anyone with severe earache, especially if it's accompanied by fever or ear discharge;
- if there is tenderness or redness in the bony area behind the ear;
- if there is sudden, significant decrease in hearing with or without pain.
- if an older child or adult has had mild ear pain or discharge lasting longer than one or two weeks;
- if mild hearing loss lasts longer than two weeks.
Homeopathic Medicines for All Ear Infections
The following descriptions apply to children with ear infections, but the indications for adults are the same. Most of the descriptions of physical-exam findings (color and shape of the eardrum) apply to otitis media, but all the other symptoms are applicable to those with both middle-ear infections and otitis externa. You can also use these descriptions to treat the person with a earache due to something other than infection.