Earache – Treatment Options Available for Curing Earache Fast

Earache – Treatment and Remedies for Curing Earache

Most people don’t think about their ears much, unless they’re self-conscious about their size. But when an earache develops, the affected ear can feel as if it has taken on monster proportions, making it difficult to think of anything else.

For all the unspeakable pain caused by earaches, they are rarely life threatening. Still, they can be serious, especially if they are caused by infection. Signs of an ear infection include ear pain and hearing loss. In a young child, clues that an ear infection may be present include rubbing or tugging at the ear, excessive crying or fussiness, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Since an untreated ear infection can lead to permanent hearing loss, and since ear pain can sometimes reflect a problem in another part of the body, it is important to have an earache checked out by a doctor.

Other than infection, the most common cause of earache is a blocked eustachian tube. The eustachian tube is a thin, membrane-lined tube that connects the inside back portion of the nose with the middle ear. The air in the middle ear is constantly being absorbed by its membranous lining, but the air is never depleted as long as the eustachian tube remains open and able to resupply air during the process of swallowing. In this manner, the air pressure on both sides of the eardrum stays about equal. However, when the eustachian tube is blocked for one reason or another, the pressure in the middle ear can’t be equalized. The air that is already there is absorbed and, without an incoming supply, a vacuum occurs in the middle ear, sucking the eardrum inward and stretching it painfully taut.

This type of earache is especially common in people who travel by air, especially when they have a cold or a stuffy nose. As the plane takes off, the air pressure in the plane’s cabin decreases, and as the plane lands, the air pressure in the cabin increases; in each instance, the pressure change occurs very rapidly. While normally the air in the middle ear manages to equalize on its own, if there is congestion in the upper-respiratory tract, air may not be able to flow through the eustachian tube to reach the middle ear. (This type of earache can also occur as a result of pressure changes during an elevator ride in a tall building and during scuba diving.) Fortunately, there are some tricks you can try to ward off ear pain that results from the ups and downs of air travel.

Swallow hard. “The act of swallowing activates the muscle that opens the eustachian tube,” says James Stankiewicz, M.D., professor and vice-chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at Loyola University Medical School in Maywood, Illinois. When the pilot announces that it’s time to fasten your seat belts for landing, get your mouth set to swallow. Swallowing can also bring temporary relief from earache pain until you can get to the doctor.

Keep your mouth moving. You swallow more often when you chew gum or suck on hard candy, so pop some into your mouth just before the plane descends.

Don’t stifle a yawn. It’s not the company, it’s the atmospheric conditions. “Yawning is the best way to keep the eustachian tube open,” says John W House, M.D., associate clinical professor in the Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles.

Stay awake. If you’re sleeping, you’re not going to be swallowing. “Ask the flight attendant to wake you before descent,” suggests Jack J. Wazen, M.D., associate professor of otolaryngology and director of otology and neurotology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York. “It’s much more pleasant than being awakened by a pain in your ear.”

Hold your nose. If your ears still become uncomfortably blocked as the plane descends, the American Academy of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery suggests that you try this: With your thumb and forefinger, pinch your nostrils tightly closed and block the external opening of the unaffected ear with the forefinger of your other hand. Now, with your mouth closed, try to blow through the pinched nostrils, blowing as forcefully as you would blow your nose. Repeat if necessary. You should experience a cracking sensation or a loud pop and a relief of the pain if the maneuver works. Don’t try this trick if you have a sore throat or fever, however, because the infection might be forced into your ears. And don’t attempt it if you have a heart or circulatory disorder.

Reach for relief. Frequent flyers should tuck away a decongestant pill or nasal spray to use an hour or so before landing. This shrinks the membranes, making it easier to keep the eustachian tube open. “If you suffer from allergies or sinusitis, you must be sure to take your medication at the beginning of the flight,” says Stankiewicz. Over-the-counter medications like this are not for everyone, however. People with heart disease, high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, or thyroid disease should avoid them. Pregnant women and individuals who are subject to anxiety should stay away from them, as well.

Take the train. If, despite all your best efforts, you still end up with an uncomfortable stuffed feeling and pain following air travel, you might consider taking the scenic route.

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