Is prednisone really going to clear up my clogged ears?
September 1, 2022 5:03 PM   Subscribe

My ears have been blocked up since Sunday night. I’m on prednisone and Flonase and it feels like it’s taking forever to get better. How long could/should it take to get back to normal?

It was rainy last week and I had burning sinuses which is pretty normal for me. It cleared up outside and my sinuses never really calmed down. I took decongestants all week and finally on Saturday went to urgent care.

I had face pain and pressure and post-nasal drip that was making my throat hurt.
They said no antibiotics for sinuses anymore unless it’s been 10-14 days of issues. So they gave me a 12-day taper on Prednisone and some Flonase and said to drink tons of water.

On Sunday night it had all shifted to my ears. Crazy pressure and muffled hearing. Contacted my doc who said I could use the Flonase twice a day if needed, but my blood pressure runs high (I’m on pills) so try not to take decongestants.

I have been drinking gallons of water and Gatorade. Flonase twice a day. And it’s the 6th day of prednisone (I’m at 40mg, tomorrow I’m down to 30 for two days). My left ear is still SO clogged. There’s pressure but not crazy pain it’s driving me bananas. If I blow my nose it’s clear stuff.

Does anyone have any experience with this? Do you have any tips for clogged ears? Have you taken prednisone for sinuses before? I am so used to getting antibiotics and feeling better in two days, but they say these are hardly ever bacterial so I don’t need them.

I feel like my ears are wrapped in cotton and the prednisone is making me heart pound and it feels like it’ll never go away. You are not my doctor and I’m mostly asking about personal experience with this kind of thing.
posted by jdl to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What kind of steroids are you taking? This clinical practice guideline suggests that about 1 in 15 patients see a reduction in symptoms from using nasal steroid sprays. There's no evidence that they make any difference to how quickly you actually recover. Oral steroids don't have any benefits in straightforward cases.

So, if you're taking prednisone as a nasal spray, and it's not helping, you might just in the unlucky majority that they don't really help (beyond placebo effects presumably).
posted by plonkee at 5:29 PM on September 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If it is the 6th day on prednisone and you are beginning to taper, I would recommend you reach out to my provider and let them know that your ear is still in significant pain. Also, it has been 10 days now if I'm reading correctly, so go get those antibiotics if urgent care will give them to you.

Also, in case you were not aware, prednisone can also have some pretty nasty emotional side effects. Those side effects may be contributing to how you feel right now. I'm not saying that you aren't having problems with your ear (you most certainly are). For me about 1/2 through a steroid course my brain decides it has "it-is-the-end-of-everything-and-I-cannot-possibly" feelings, with increased anxiousness, irritability, loss of sleep. Awareness of this issue helps a little with me talking to myself about my feelings in the moment, and might help you if you think it is applicable.

Take care and good luck! Feel better

EDITED for clarity, because grammar
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:14 PM on September 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

There are various stretches you can try to clear your eustachian tubes. Here's one. I think it's unlikely to help if the predisone isn't working, but it might give you some brief relief.
posted by OrangeDisk at 6:19 PM on September 1, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It took eight days of oral steroids for my ears to clear the last time they got clogged. Or maybe the steroids didn't do anything and it just got better on its own? Who knows. I did not find other remedies to be at all useful. In my case pain was not an issue, just pressure and inability to hear.
posted by metasarah at 6:22 PM on September 1, 2022

Best answer: I feel for you! My ear just unclogged yesterday after being totally blocked and muffled since last week. But it is, in my experience, just a really slow process with recovering from all that sinus pressure. I was treating it with Flonase twice a day and Zyrtec once a day, waiting for day 10-12 to go to the doctor.

So, I agree with AlexiaSky--you've hit your ten days, go back to the doctor! Especially if you're in pain. And also second their comment about Prednisone: it gives me major mood swings and especially irritability/frustration.

While my ears were clogged what helped was:
Pressure with my index finger right at the base of my ear, behind the earlobe, pushing upward
Hot showers but only for about 10 minutes, after that got too worried I'd get water IN my ears
The usual yawning/swallowing ear-clearing stuff you do on an airplane
posted by assenav at 6:23 PM on September 1, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you to those who have answered so far. All so helpful! I marked best answers on the personal experience ones as it’s nice to hear how others have experienced this.

Luckily it’s just pressure now, not pain, but I’ll definitely call tomorrow if there is no change and see what the doc says.

And AlexiaSky you are so right-on about my mood. It’s helpful to remember it is likely the prednisone making me feel so aggravated. I re-read my post and realize I sound a little wound up. I have 6 more days… (I started at 60 mg and am down to 30 tomorrow - going down 10 every two days). It’s so annoying to imagine it may not even be helping and instead just making me sweaty and agitated.
posted by jdl at 7:31 PM on September 1, 2022

Best answer: Hello! I have wee tiny Eustachian tubes that have given me a lifetime of ear infections, usually associated with upper respiratory crud. I haven’t ever been given steroids, so I can’t speak to that part, but pressure and muffled sound can last for a few days or more, even if you’re on antibiotics. (Clinically, I learned this spring that part of the hesitancy in giving antibiotics these days is that many ear infections turn out to be viral, and so antibiotics don’t help at all.). It sucks: I’m sorry.

You’re already hydrating and avoiding decongestants (my understanding is that Flonase is a steroid, not a decongestant) - these are great! I’d add sterile saline nose spray and Mucinex to help thin mucus secretions and aid draining, hot, wet washcloths applied to the ear/area behind ear (and/or a hot water bottle with a thin wet cloth over it), breathing some steam (leaning over a pot with a towel works), gently massaging lymph nodes in the neck - and a genius trick mezzanayne taught me here on MetaFilter - a back massager or vibrator, which in the US you can now buy at a CVS or Walgreens (or your friendly neighborhood sex shop!). Total game changer for me: relieved the feeling of pressure momentarily, also seemed to help drainage, given the medical ok by my ENT. I go around my eyebrows and the bridge/sides of my nose, carefully across my cheeks under my eyes, dig in at my temple, down around the back of the ear. I hope you feel better soon!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 11:18 PM on September 1, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: How strange. I went through this over the last month. It took several weeks to only mostly resolve.

I was on 40mg Prednisone for 5 days. Maybe this helped a little. It affected my sleep a bit and helped some "normal" back pain that I generally have.

Starting at the same time, I was on Augmentin for 10 days. That helped more but even that seemed to not do much until the last part of the course. After about a week there was definite improvement but it was more like a reduction in pressure than actually clearing out my ear.

It's weeks later and things are much better but my ear still feels clogged at times. My hearing is mostly back when it doesn't feel clogged.

The flonase didn't seem to do anything at all for my ear. Maybe it helped my breathing at night?

I don't take pill allergy medicines as all that I've tried make me too sleepy or zombified to function.
posted by jclarkin at 5:47 AM on September 2, 2022

If you haven’t tried it, you could try using a Neti pot (or hypertonic saline rinse as mentioned above) to help with sinus irrigation. It is one of the few things shown to reduce duration of sinus infections and can often have a knock on effect in reducing overall inflammation and hasten recovery in areas it doesn’t actually reach.
posted by ghostpony at 7:02 PM on September 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also what a genius idea to use massager to vibrate and mobilize the mucus. They use the same technique in cystic fibrosis patients (it’s a special chest harness) but have never thought of it for sinuses! Brilliant!
posted by ghostpony at 7:04 PM on September 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

I'd also suggest the Neti pot or tilting your head back if you use any nasal spray so it hits the eustacian tubes.

If it becomes a recurring or long term thing, an ENT can put tubes in your ears like they do for children who have ear infections. I had it done a few years ago. No recurring ear infection since then.
posted by answergrape at 11:06 AM on September 4, 2022

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