I rather like my ear and would prefer not to cut it off.
November 8, 2011 11:57 AM   Subscribe

Sinus infection backed up into my poor ears. I need some relief while I wait on the med's to do their trick!

I can barely think, the feeling of being underwater, needing to pop my ears, but I can't, gah.

I am on steroids and antibiotics. I started them Sat. morning and I'm definitely better, but my ears being so full is really driving me quite bananas. What can I do to help releive the pressure in the mean time?

I'm taking the heavy duty over the counter sinus stuff with acetaminophen, guaifenesin, and dextromethorphan, plus the weird nasal spray stuff, and while I am bit speedy, I still feel "sick" and its really not drying my sinuses out like I'd like. (Also, if I don't take the fever reducing stuff I'm running like 99.3, which is high for me) Can you help me?
posted by stormygrey to Health & Fitness (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have had sinus infections, but never had problems with my ears. However my doctor would sometimes recommend Mucinex to help dry me out. You might also try using a neti pot to get things moving.

Sinus infections are no fun, feel better soon.
posted by kaybdc at 12:01 PM on November 8, 2011

I get sinus infections pretty regularly and a lot of my friends suggest using a neti pot.

Also, you can try to boil up a pot of water, throw a blanket over your head, and hang out over the boiling water inhaling the steam.
posted by griphus at 12:02 PM on November 8, 2011

Stop the nasal spray. That stuff is only temporarily helping you. Unless you are using a Saline spray to keep your nostrils moisturized.

Get yourself Pseudoephedrine hydrochloride. It is the over the counter active ingredient of Sudafed. Take one instead of the recommended two every four to six hours. That ought to help you within a day.

Drink lots of fluids, preferably warm. Try some lemon and honey too.

When you go to lie down, prop yourself up from the middle of your back upward. This will prevent the clogging in your ears.

Good luck!
posted by Yellow at 12:10 PM on November 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Seconding Pseudoephedrine HCl - it's the stuff you have to sign for at the pharmacy. Two of those little red 30mg pills a few times a day will work wonders! Do not get the Sudafed PE junk that's out on the regular shelves; it's not nearly as effective.
posted by jenny76 at 12:21 PM on November 8, 2011

Thirding Sudafed with Pseudoephedrine. And yeah, kill the nasal spray; it makes things worse over the long term!
posted by DarlingBri at 12:23 PM on November 8, 2011

Only once have I earaches as an adult and I swear it hurt worse than childbirth. For immediate relief (while medications kicked in) I put heat on my ears (very warm wet cloths or heating pads or something) It was surprisingly effective. Made it all bearable until the the painkillers started working, which tided me over until the antibiotics or whatever did their thing. (It's all just hazy bad memory now.)
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 12:32 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have to be a in really bad way before I'll resort to pseudoephedrine but it is the only stuff that works (seriously, no doctor or pharmacist would recommend the PE stuff), so once in a while I go for it even though I feel super-high and have crazy, disturbing dreams when I take it. You sound like you may be at that point.

Can you spend a lot of time in a really hot shower or bath? That always makes my sinus congestion feel loads better. Hot shower, drink a steady stream of hot lemon water or herbal tea until I start to feel uncomfortable again, then repeat.
posted by mskyle at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2011

Pseudoephedrine HCl is what you are looking for. Others are right, the real stuff, not the replacement in on-the-shelf Sudafed. The reason why you have to sign for the real stuff is so they know you aren't making meth with it. It's one of the few over the counter drugs that will unstuff middle and inner ears. If the pain in your ears is driving you crazy, I find laying my head on a heating pad relieving. Hot showers can help move some of the crud and relieve pain as well.
posted by Foam Pants at 12:33 PM on November 8, 2011

Ibuprofen + Pseudoephedrine HCl helps me a lot (name brand Advil cold & sinus). I find that I have a lot of inflammation when I get crazy stuffy, and taking a few ibuprofen helps immensely. IANAD, but you can take this in conjunction with "NyQuil" type medications (at least, my doctor said it was ok).
posted by sararah at 12:41 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had one in April for the first time and it was the most extraordinarily painful thing I've experienced. The only thing that brought any relief at all was a lot - a lot - of consistent ibuprofen, in gelcap form (though that may or may not make a difference)
posted by FlyByDay at 12:45 PM on November 8, 2011

My ENT's remedy (it works!): Mix hydrogen peroxide and warm water 1:1, then lay down on your side and use a dropper to place the solution in your ears. You'll feel a gentle tickling sensation as the bubbles do their magic; leave it in till that stops or until about 15 minutes have passed, and switch to the other ear. (this is a very good excuse to catch up on tv, btw).

I'd also echo the others above that a warm compress (or *carefully* tilting the ear over a cup of steaming water) and neti pot will help quite a bit too.
posted by susanvance at 1:01 PM on November 8, 2011

I use pseudoephedrine + Neti pot. The neti pot will provide you substantial relief, but it may take several pots' worth. Since you're totally clogged, it may take a while for the solution to even "break through" the mucus--try to let the solution sit in your nasal cavity and just be patient until things start moving. I use salt and warm water for my solution, though I've heard that some people add baking soda.
posted by gubenuj at 1:03 PM on November 8, 2011

IANAENT, but I think susanvance's ENT's advice will only work for something happening in the outer ear, whereas if you have a sinus infection backed up in your ear, it is your middle ear / Eustachian tube that is involved.

If your eardrum is intact, it's going to keep the anything you put in your outer ear from getting into the middle or inner ear.

(As an aside, I have chronic swimmer's ear, which is an outer-ear infection, and for that condition, my ENT told me not to use hydrogen peroxide, because it throws off the pH of the ear canal which can allow the infection to really run rampant. Consult your doc or pharmacist, I'd say.)

I also second using a heating pad for comforting pain/pressure in your ear.
posted by BrashTech at 1:18 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Man, you know you're in a bad way when you hear "if your eardrum is in intact" and you think, "man, is only it wasn't..."
posted by stormygrey at 1:20 PM on November 8, 2011

I wouldn't recommend that you use the neti pot if you have clogged ears. I've done that, and the pressure was intense.
posted by feste at 1:23 PM on November 8, 2011

Real Patriot Act store brand sudafed, ibuprofen *religiously* for inflammation, and cool or cold compresses on your jaw and behind your ears. Often part of the pain is all the lymph nodes right there swelling up and pressing on your jaw, and trapped air expanding with your body heat in your ears. You think you want to relieve it with heat, but cold will actually give you better longer-term inflammation reduction.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:25 PM on November 8, 2011

Get the small (red) Sudafed. Easier to tailor your own dosage, and the weird speed effects tend to last less long.

But also, as a person who has been in your situation and is really, really bothered by full ears: if you have any ability to do so, you may be better off focusing on tuning out the sensation vs. trying to find a fix. I had residual ear fullness on one side for weeks this spring, and I probably would've been better served, uh, meditating or something instead of obsessively scouring the internet in search of an elusive way to de-gunk my Eustachian tubes without bursting my eardrums. Sometimes it just takes time.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:42 PM on November 8, 2011

Unless you are coughing, you don't need the dextromethorphan. It is a cough suppressent only, and won't do a thing for your ears. Plus, if you take too much of it it can cause rapid heartbeat and possibly hallucinations (good stuff, eh?).

If I remember correctly, a prescription dose of guafinisen is 600mg, which is exactly what Mucinex is. It's designed to thin mucus so it can drain out of wherever it's hiding. The pseudophedrine (not the PE stuff) is meant to shrink the swelling so that the mucus can then run out. (Can you tell I've dealt with this for years?) A pain killer/anti inflammatory helps with the general inflammation and pain. My "go to" med for times like this was Tylenol Severe Cold, but you can also buy all the meds separately and dose yourself. You may want to consider buying the Aleve version so you don't stress your liver with too much acetaminophen. The Nyquil stuff (or an antihistamine if those make you sleepy) will help you sleep, but staying propped up will help things drain instead of just sitting back in your throat (especially if it decides to let go in the middle of the night...I've had that happen before too).

Heat always felt good on my ears when they were painful. If I left a source of heat long enough on the area right behind my ear/jaw and took my meds I could usually feel the pressure release. A soak in a warm bath would also make me feel better if I just generally felt bad all over. I've never tried cool compresses on that area though, so that might feel good as well. Try it and see.

Pinching your nose shut and blowing out to pop my ears NEVER works for me...it winds up shoving the junk farther up in my Eustachian tube which is exactly where I DON'T want it. However, I have been able to put my finger over my ear and do a "plunger" like action (like you are plunging a toilet) towards the inside of my ear to get it to pop. You have to do this VERY GENTLY...the goal isn't to build up a massive amount of pressure, but sometimes it's just enough to force the junk back down the Eustachian tube and out to your throat. YMMV, and this isn't medical advice...if it hurts don't do it, and be careful to not rupture your eardrum if there's massive amounts of pressure behind it.

I hope you get to feeling better! I've dealt with the ear pain many times due to allergies plugging everything up. Allegra D and Nasonex are my new best friends.
posted by MultiFaceted at 2:44 PM on November 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Just echoing sentiments about Advil Cold & Sinus. It's magical.
posted by erstwhile at 2:56 PM on November 8, 2011

Get into a very hot steaming shower, tilt your head back as far as possible and breathe the steam. I know this to have worked, for various people, in really bad situations.
posted by StickyCarpet at 3:18 PM on November 8, 2011

nth spending as much time in a nice steamy shower as possible.
posted by pompomtom at 5:39 PM on November 8, 2011

Drink LOTS of water or weak tea.

Not only will you need it to keep the gunk flowing, but Sudafed drys you out something fierce.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:13 PM on November 8, 2011

I tried all the drugs listed above, but if you really want instant relief, go to your ENT and get a myringotomy. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myringotomy )

Takes 2 minutes, the relief is instant, and the tiny pinhole heals up in a few days.
posted by PSB at 5:02 AM on November 9, 2011

12-hour pseudoephedrine causes a lot fewer of the speed-like effects. My husband is especially sensitive to it, but the slow-release formula doesn't force him to be awake (and hyperactive) for 16+ hours like the normal dosage did.
posted by bookdragoness at 6:44 AM on November 9, 2011

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