Ear Infections in Adults

Most people relate ear pain with ear infection, but the pain and discomfort at or near the ear can be a result of many problems. This article will figure out the hidden causes of ear infections. Most of the ear infections take place inside ears and usually there are no signs of infection at the outside. A different infection type displays redness and swelling outside the ear and you may feel the pain. Therefore, you need to understand more about ear infections to better monitor your conditions and prevent further damage.

Symptoms and Causes of Ear Infections in Adults

Bacterial and viral invasion are the most common causes of infection in the ear. You should also be aware of certain risk factors like smoking, sinusitis, air pollution, exposure to smoke, drinking when lying down, etc. to avoid getting infected. The infectious agent enters into the ear canal, especially when the person has cold, flu, breathing problem or other allergies; the infection may then get into the middle of ear to cause more serious symptoms. Below are 2 common types of ear infections along with symptoms and causes:

1. Swimmer's Ear in Adults

Also called as otitis externa, this condition refers to external ear infections. These infections commonly occur in swimmers when the contaminated water enters the outer part of the ear canal. Germs then enter and grow due to the moisture. Some typical symptoms include:

  • Redness in ear
  • Itchiness
  • Skin flakes on ear
  • Pus drainage from ears
  • Earache on moving head or touching ear
  • Fever

Sometimes there's too much debris and pus, which should be cleaned by the physician. You can use ear plugs while bathing and swimming to prevent swimmer's ear. You should also dry your ear after swimming or bath. Avoid inserting things into your ear and don't swim in polluted water.

2. Middle Ear Infection

Also known as otitis media, it is the most common infection among children. It is caused due to anatomical changes in the Eustachian tube's size and shape. When excessive bacteria or fluid is found inside the ear, it causes infection. Adults with frequent infections of middle ear must visit an ENT (an ear, nose and throat specialist) to check if the surrounding tissues of nose or throat aren't blocking the tube (and thus restricting the free drainage of the liquid).

Such an infection occurs usually after a cold virus, seasonal allergies or flying an airplane.Sticking objects like Q-tips can also cause the infection. Usually, the common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Earache
  • Ear drainage
  • Feeling of pressure inside the ear
  • Loss of hearing capability
  • Problems in balancing

Surgery to remove or reduce the size of the tissue may be required in some cases. Cigarette smoke, use of decongestant during flu and using ear-wax for cleaning must be avoided for future prevention.

When to Seek Medical Help

Symptoms of ear infections in adults can lead to multiple conditions, so it becomes imperative to get a proper diagnosis as early as possible. Call the doctor if:

  • Symptoms last for more than a day.
  • You have extreme earache.
  • Sleeplessness and irritation after cold or any other infection.
  • You notice fluid discharging from ear.

It usually takes 48-72 hours for otitis symptoms to relieve, but it may take up to 3 months for the built-in fluid to get completely drained out.

Medical Treatment for Ear Infections in Adults

In most cases, ear infection in adults resolve spontaneously, without treatment in the setting of competent immune system. But treatments that are suggested in some cases include:

1. Painkillers

To ease the earache, painkillers (like paracetamol or ibuprofen) are given. They also lower the temperature (fever associated with the ongoing infection). You can also give painkillers along with the prescribed antibiotics to ease the pain. Anesthetic medicines can also be placed in the ear to ease pain, but this treatment hasn't been approved yet for children with severe earache.

2. Antibiotics

If infection doesn't clear in 2-3 days, then antibiotics are suggested; however, generally intake of antibiotics should be avoided unless it is a must. As a side-effect, antibiotics are known to cause diarrhea and rashes. Situations in which antibiotics are suggested include:

  • Development of complications
  • Severe infection

Tested Home Remedies for Ear Infections in Adults

1. Salt Compress

Salt can be one of the easily available home remedies for the ear infections. Just heat a cup of salt on pan/double boiler or microwave. Then take out the salt on a cloth and tie from top.When some heat is released, place the salt filled cloth over the affected ear for 5-10 minutes. Repeat the procedure every day. Salt can be replaced with rice.

2. Heating Pad

Heat pad not only relieves pain quickly but also prevents micro-organism infestation. You need to use heating pad or warm water bottle to press against ear. Remember to apply heat for short periods. Start with 5 mins, and then remove. Apply few minutes later again.

3. Make the Best of Garlic

Naturally, garlic has the ability to relieve pain, especially earache. It can be used in different ways. You can prepare garlic oil by frying 2 cloves garlic in oil until blackish, strain and use as ear drops when slightly warm. Otherwise, just boil garlic in some water, crush and add salt, place in cloth piece and place over ear. The simplest way to apply garlic is to eat garlic daily.

4. Apply Basil Oil 

Basil also works to relieve ear infections in adults. Minor earache and infections can be treated with basil. Extract juice of 4-5 basil leaves and apply on the ear and surroundings. Don't let it enter into the ear canal. You can also mix holy basil oil with carrier oil. Soak in cotton ball and wipe it inside the ear.

5. Apple Cider Vinegar in Cotton Ball 

It is used to reduce fungus inside the ear. Mix apple cider vinegar in water/alcohol; soak in cotton ball and place it inside the ear for a few minutes. Remove ball and lay down for liquid to drain. Dry your ear later. White vinegar can be an alternative.

6. Olive Oil to Clean 

Wax can also cause ear infection in adults. To clear it; put slightly warm olive oil drops in affected ear. It will soften wax, so you can easily wipe off using cotton swabs carefully. Mustard oil can be used as an alternative.

7. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil can be used to relieve pain and work as an antibacterial agent. Combine 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 3 drops tea tree oil, 1 teaspoon colloidal silver, and heat the mixture for a while. Drop the mixture in ear and leave for 5 minutes, then drain. Repeat three times a day.

8. Mullein Drops

Mullein is commonly used in the form of mullein tea. Boil 1/2 cup water then add 1 teaspoon mullein flowers and let the mullein tea cool. Now, you need to combine 1 tablespoon mullein tea with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and leave this solution over the night. After that, you need to put a drop of mixture in infected ear. If you don't want to make it on your own, mullein drops are also available readilymade.

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