What is Earache?
Earaches are a prevalent issue characterised by discomfort in the ear, which can manifest as dull, sharp, or burning pain and can affect one or both ears. While it is more commonly seen in children, adults can also experience earaches.
Typically, earaches result from minor infections in different parts of the ear and usually resolve without major concerns within a few days.
The pain may vary in intensity, being either intermittent or persistent, often feeling severe due to the sensitivity of the ears rather than indicating a serious underlying problem. However, if you have any worries, you should seek guidance and reassurance from one of our medical professionals.
Although ear pain is a widespread issue, specific individuals have a higher susceptibility to it:
- Earaches are quite common in children. Babies who have experienced an ear infection before six months of age are at an increased risk of developing more infections as they mature.
- Adults who swim frequently may be more prone to earaches because water can enter their ears and potentially harbour bacteria.
- Individuals with pre-existing ear issues, such as underdeveloped ear tubes, might have a greater likelihood of experiencing ear infections and ear pain.
The typical indicators of an earache encompass:
- Pain in the vicinity of your ear.
- The presence of fluid or pus in your ear.
- Impaired hearing.
Occasionally, you might experience an earache with a headache; typically, this is not a cause for concern. However, if the headache is severe, it's advisable to seek medical attention.
Similarly, an earache and a sore throat may co-occur, given the close connection between the ear and throat. If the sore throat is intense, consulting a doctor is recommended.
Earache Symptoms in Children
Children are particularly prone to ear infections due to their developing immune systems and the ongoing growth of their ear structures. Their anatomical differences, such as flatter eustachian tubes, can make them more susceptible to earaches. Additionally, larger adenoids in children can become infected and impact the ears.
In some cases, children may experience recurring ear problems, potentially necessitating the insertion of small tubes called grommets into their ear drums. Grommets help prevent further infections and allow accumulated fluids to drain from the ear. They naturally fall out after a few months as the eardrum grows. Consultation with a doctor can help determine if this is necessary for your child.
Indications that your child may have an earache include:
- Pulling or tugging at their ears.
- Increased irritability.
- Difficulty in responding to sounds.
- Elevated body temperature.
- Loss of appetite.
- Balance disturbances.
- Poor sleep patterns.
When to see a doctor about Earache?
If your or your child's earache persists or experiences additional symptoms, it's advisable to consult a doctor for further guidance. Keep an eye out for the following symptoms:
- A high temperature
- Severe pain
- Bad headache
- Swelling around your ear
- Blood coming from the ear
- Severe pain that stops suddenly, which could be the eardrum perforating
Seek urgent medical assistance if your child or baby displays signs of a stiff neck, excessive drowsiness, or severe distress.
In children, earaches can also result from foreign objects inserted into the ear. If you can see something, contact your doctor, as they may need to refer you to a specialist for safe removal. Avoid removing it yourself, as this could push it deeper into the ear, leading to more pain.
Earaches can be attributed to various common factors, such as:
Ear Infections — The most prevalent source of ear pain, often involving middle or outer ear infections. If you notice a discharge from your ear, this is a likely cause. Typically, these infections resolve naturally within a couple of days, but if not, consulting a doctor may lead to the prescription of ear drops or antibiotics.
Labyrinthitis — Earache can result from viral or bacterial infections stemming from respiratory illnesses, leading to labyrinthitis.
Perforated Eardrum — Inserting cotton buds too deeply into the ear can cause damage or a perforated eardrum, resulting in earache and potential hearing loss. A perforated eardrum usually heals on its own within a few weeks.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism) — Earache can be linked to teeth grinding, typically occurring at night. This behaviour strains the jaw muscles, causing discomfort.
Glue Ear — More common in children, glue ear involves a fluid buildup in the ear, often not causing pain but potentially leading to earache due to pressure. If glue ear persists, grommets may be necessary; consulting a doctor is advisable.
Throat Infections — Earache may stem from throat infections like tonsillitis or colds, especially if swallowing is painful and a sore throat is present.
Earwax Buildup — Accumulated earwax can be the culprit behind ear pain. Seeking advice from a pharmacist or a doctor on softening or removing the earwax can alleviate the earache.
Eczema in the Ear Canal can extend into the ear canal, making it more susceptible to infection, ultimately leading to earache.
As mentioned, earaches typically resolve independently and are generally not a cause for significant concern. Nonetheless, if you have concerns or if additional symptoms are present in you or your child, it's advisable to seek medical attention.
You can manage the pain at home by using over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol or ibuprofen. Alternatively, you can consult a pharmacist who may recommend ear drops that can be purchased without a prescription to help alleviate the discomfort.
Additionally, there are several home remedies you can try to ease earache, including:
1. Avoid exposing your ear to water.
2. Apply a warm compress to the affected ear.
3. Maintaining an upright sitting position to alleviate ear pressure.
4. If dealing with a baby or infant, feeding them to assist in reducing pressure in their ear, as swallowing may offer some relief.
Earache Treatment Online
You or your child can conveniently consult with a doctor at Mobi Doctor for earache concerns. Our medical professionals are accessible seven days a week, providing advice, diagnosis, and necessary treatment. They can also recommend a specialist for additional evaluation or care if necessary. Schedule your appointment today to begin the path towards feeling better.