Earaches are a common symptom of colds, flu, and general infections. With luck, an earache proves to be nothing more than a minor annoyance that goes away when the illness does, but sometimes it can be incredibly painful.
In most cases, the best way to treat an earache is just to treat short-term pain and let nature take its course. If you don’t start to make a full recovery within a few days or if you experience loss of hearing or other more worrying symptoms, then it’s a good idea to seek professional medical advice.
In the short term, however, home remedies for earaches can be a good option. Let’s take a look at a few of the best home remedies for earaches:
Top Home Remedies for Earaches
Olive Oil Drops
While research proving the effectiveness of olive oil drops for earaches is limited, doctors agree that it won’t do any harm, and even a placebo effect can still be beneficial.1
Putting a couple of drops of warm (not hot) olive oil into your ears can loosen up wax and have a soothing effect on ear pain.
Using a cooling wrap over the affected ear can sometimes be soothing.2 Again, this is not something that is proven by research, but many parents use it as a home remedy for their children. There is evidence to suggest that using cooling agents on the body can reduce inflammation, and the cooling sensation can distract from pain too.
Sometimes, earache can be associated with other symptoms, such as congestion, sinus trouble, or a sore throat. In that case, essential oils can be useful. For example, the peppermint in the Mountain blend can help if you’re feeling stuffy or congested, and the ginger in the Relieve blend can sometimes help with head-cold symptoms and sore throats.
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Essential oils aren’t quite a miracle cure, but they can give your body a helping hand and ease some of the symptoms of earaches. Indeed, studies show that essential oil drops can offer relief from many of the symptoms of the flu and earaches.3
Earaches are unusual in that aching ears do not always mean that there is something wrong with your ears. Often, the earache is something known as “referred pain.”4 For this reason, many remedies for earaches do not center on the ear itself.
Earaches can sometimes come from tension headaches. This means that a massage of the back, neck, and shoulder muscles could help to alleviate the pain in many cases.
Garlic is a popular home remedy which, if old wive’s tales are to be believed, can cure almost anything. It is thought to be useful as an antimicrobial agent and also as an immune booster, making it good for treating everything from cuts to colds.
This herb is commonly used in complementary and alternative medicine as a treatment for earaches (as a component of drops), and some people swear by adding it to their diet as a way of managing general head colds, influenza, sinus issues, and other common ailments.5
When to See a Doctor
In most cases, earaches should get better after a few days as the other symptoms of your head cold or illness subside. If they do not, or if you are suffering from other pain as well, then you should consult with your doctor. Earaches can sometimes be linked to toothaches and other illnesses. Sometimes, untreated earaches can become worse and lead to other problems. A doctor can rule out any serious underlying condition.
In the past, doctors would prescribe antibiotics for earaches. This is less common now because of a fear of overprescription of antibiotics, and the possibility of bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics. Usually, if you are healthy and have a strong immune system, doctors will monitor your condition and wait to see if you can fight off the infection yourself. They will save antibiotics for the very young, the elderly, and those who are at risk because they have other illnesses or a compromised immune system.
So, in the meantime, try the home remedies listed above, along with sucking on sweets or chewing gum, drinking warm, soothing drinks, and getting plenty of rest. For most people, that will be enough to help you make a full recovery. Over-the-counter painkillers can also help if you are in a lot of pain. Paracetamol or ibuprofen can help to reduce the pain so that you can sleep and let your body do the rest.
If the pain lasts more than three or four days, then it is worth asking for advice. If you get recurring ear infections, then you may want to get some advice to work out what is causing them and how to stop them from coming back.
If you have issues with earwax build up, this is something that a nurse can help with. Try to avoid sticking cotton buds into your ear or trying to poke the earwax out with improvised tools. This could push the wax into the canal or cause even worse problems. Earwax should come out of your ears on its own if you rinse your ears with water in the shower or bath. If it does not, then getting your ears “syringed” at the doctor’s could be necessary.
Earaches are usually a fairly minor inconvenience and can be remedied by one or several home remedies. If you’re suffering from a minor earache, consider trying one of the methods described above to find some relief.
Photo credits: mythja/shutterstock.com, aleks333/shutterstock.com