Ear infection tips/tricks
March 14, 2011 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I need your tips/tricks for dealing with an ear infection.

I have an ear infection, which either didn't go away completely after 10 days of antibiotics starting about a month ago, or this is a new infection. I saw my GP again, and he gave me a 15 day supply, and told me to see a specialist. I can't get into the specialist until next month. In the meantime, I need whatever tips you might have for dealing with the reduced hearing, and constant pressure on that side of my head, while waiting for the antibiotics to do their thing. Also, whatever you recommend I should not be doing, and whatever might speed up recovery.
posted by Brocktoon to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Hot showers & humidifier in the bedroom.
posted by desjardins at 10:06 AM on March 14, 2011

Put a warm compress on that side of your face.
posted by parilous at 10:06 AM on March 14, 2011

When I had an ear infection about 5 years ago, I found that decongestants sometimes helped a little. But the only thing that really worked was ibuprofen and heat.

Every minute I wasn't at work, I spent at home on the couch lying with my head on a heating pad. They're magic!
posted by ErikaB at 10:07 AM on March 14, 2011

If you get water in your ear canal from bathing, make absolutely sure you dry them with a hair dryer on the lowest setting. I also had a hard time with one that kept coming back and it was largely due to moisture in my ear. GP actually told me to wash my ear out but ENT told me to pretty much never put a thing in there, including q tips, irrigation, etc.
posted by stranger danger at 10:13 AM on March 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Only thing that works for me is antibiotic ear drops - oral antibiotics just don't do anything - not much blood supply there to get the drug where the infection is. If you're in a lot of pain you might either ask your regular doc for drops or call the ENT's office back and explain. I know my experience of adult ear infections has been incredibly painful.
posted by leslies at 10:42 AM on March 14, 2011

Been there, done that. Stuffy ears are surprisingly annoying. Now I have tubes in my ears and just got an ear infection anyway. Grr.

Some people swear by neti/sinus rinse--it didn't help my ears, but the squeeze bottle one is great for a stuffy nose.

Others have had success with decongestants -- but had to take them regularly for 2 weeks before their ears un-stuffed.

I've put peroxide in my ears -- straight peroxide will make you feel dizzy, so some docs tell you to mix it half with warm water (peroxide also feels very cold). Do NOT neti with peroxide unless you want to feel like your face is exploding.

I've put alcohol in my ears, hoping to dry them out. Don't remember if it had much effect before I had tubes in my ears, but doing it this morning with the tubes was a BAD BAD idea -- made my eardrums hurt and then ran down the back of my throat.

Anyway, prior to the tubes my ears were stuffed as an extension of sinus infections for months. After getting the tubes in, I could hear wonderfully again immediately.

Good luck!
posted by MeiraV at 11:04 AM on March 14, 2011

A little warm garlic oil and cotton to keep it in can be very soothing. Smelly, but soothing.
posted by thymelord at 11:20 AM on March 14, 2011

Seconding thymelord's advice.
posted by bricoleur at 11:24 AM on March 14, 2011

My mom used to mix 1/2 rubbing alcohol and 1/2 white vinegar and squirt a few drops into my and my sister's ears and then pack 'em with cotton balls. I think the line of thinking goes that the alcohol will kill everything and the vinegar will dry out all the moisture bacteria love (or maybe vice versa on the alcohol/vinegar). It's at least worth a shot.
posted by jay.eye.elle.elle. at 11:40 AM on March 14, 2011

Can you ask your GP about steroidal nose spray? It really helps open things up and you can use it for longer than things like Afrin.
posted by elpea at 11:46 AM on March 14, 2011

Fill a sock made of closely knit fabric (like a girl's dress sock or two women's nylon knee-hi stockings, one inside the other) with table salt but leave several inches at the top of the sock to tie it off or wind a rubber band around it to keep the salt from spilling out. Heat the sock in the microwave until it is very hot. As soon as you can comfortably hold the sock, apply it to your ear. Lying on the sock helps. The salt inside the sock will mold to the contours of your ear and the heat of the salt will soothe the pain and generally help the situation. Because the salt cools, it's safe to sleep with the sock under your (or a child's) ear, because it will never get any warmer than when you first apply it unless you re-heat it in the microwave. My parents used sock-full-of-salt method on all us kids with good success for years.

It won't entirely solve the problem, but it helps and it's safe, so try it.

And feel better.
posted by Jenna Brown at 12:56 PM on March 14, 2011

To try to drain--tons of fluids and some antibiotics, maybe some Advil, a hot shower and then try this--

Rest your head below your neck but still supported--I used to do it off of a futon on the floor. Put your affected ear towards the ceiling. Yawn (or swallow). Tilt your head in various ways. Experiment. Quit when you get bored/dizzy. This strategy has led to the sudden drainage of at least a few gnarly green infections in my ear. Smelled/tasted disguting!
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:46 PM on March 14, 2011

Oh and vinegar/alcohol/peroxide are more for infections of the external ear. Avoid. It won't get near the infection unless your eardrum is ruptured. If it is ruptured, you don't want anything near the injury.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:51 PM on March 14, 2011

Maybe it's just me and my allergies but I've had a lot of success with 1 daily loratidine (generic Claritin), 1 12- hr. real decongestant, the kind you have to show your driver's license for, and nasal irrigation with a saline rinse 2x per day. I had ear infections constantly as a kid and then on and off as an adult, and it got so I was getting very sick, every year. My doctor said no to antibiotics and he took me off my nasal steroid inhaler. Now that I'm on this regimen I've had better success staving ear infections off. Good luck to you!
posted by Lynsey at 2:06 PM on March 14, 2011

In using a neti pot to deal with my sinuses recently, I also experienced really intense popping in my ears, followed by a lot of yucky green stuff coming out my nose. So, blow your nose (gently!) and use a neti pot to help loosen things up. The blowing action will help to change the pressure in your ears, much like the activities the young rope-rider suggests. Feel better soon!
posted by Fui Non Sum at 3:27 PM on March 14, 2011

Sometimes chewing gum works well for my kids.
It gets their minds off the pain and the vigorous chewing will sometimes relieve the pressure.

It works best if you get it before the pain gets really bad.
posted by Ignorance at 5:56 PM on March 14, 2011

You can use Swim-Ear to reduce the chance of getting an infection; I dunno about remedying a current one. It's basically alcohol for the infection and glycerin to keep the alcohol from drying out the ear. Use it every time you swim, or after showers/bathing if you are really prone to it.

If the infection is on the inside, heat is good. You can try drinking hot tea or hot water. Some of the above suggestions sound pretty good to me.
posted by Xoebe at 8:00 PM on March 14, 2011

I've had an ear infection (more along the exzema lines than the swollen lines) for about five years now.

For the pain - put socks on the radiator. Curl them up and lie on them (ear on sock) to ease the pain slightly. This is sometimes the only way I can sleep. When the sock cools, replace it with another hot one.

Tell people to speak into your good ear. You sound like a crotchety old so-and-so but you'll get over it. There's nothing more infuriating than not being able to hear/being asked to repeat everything.

Don't use cotton buds for the love of god. I think it was my angered fiddling with them that turned my perfectly usual ear infection into Acme Gross Central and has made it seventeen times harder to shift. It feels good for maybe twenty seconds and then it's red hot wires.

Ask for spay antibiotics - I used Otomize - as there's chuff all point with oral. And use the spray, properly, as often as you're told - I had to resort to carrying mine and some cotton wool with me at all times so I didn't start skipping doses.

DON'T GET IT WET. Look for the moldable wax earplugs in the chemist and use them while you're showering.

Good on you for getting a referral early and good luck getting it sorted.
posted by citands at 9:43 AM on March 15, 2011

I struggled with ear infections my whole childhood, then my mother took me to Mayo Clinic (which meant a plane fare and several days in a hotel) Soon enough I became a focal point of a 12 year study on ear infections. The final result? DAIRY IS THE DEVIL. Once I swore off dairy, the ear infections ceased. No more screaming nights, no more penicillin as a snack, just no more. Now although I rarely eat dairy, I can tolerate a little-for instance pizza as long as I dont have any other dairy that day or the next, or ice cream, if the only dairy I eat in a week...but push the envelope...one carton of yogurt, or 2 servings of dairy in 2 days and I feel the familiar pain in my ears which means if I dont stop (and drink massive amounts of vitamin C, lemonade, emergenC or something else) I'm going to end up with a full blown ear infection.

To this day I don't understand why this isn't absolutely common knowledge among all parents, doctors, adults. Mayo Clinic is certainly a trusted source and from someone who spent many a pained and tearful night at the ER...I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Drinking water with lemon can help keep your eustachian tube clear-but really, there's Lactaid Milk and Rice and Almond and frankly--I'd have eaten cereal with water if I had known then what I know now.
posted by ju1244 at 3:57 AM on September 30, 2011

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