Earache: Causes, Symptoms and First Aid
Earache is a common medical pain complained by both
children and adults. The pain can either be dull, sharp, or burning, depending on the cause. It may be present in one or both ears, temporary or for an extended period of time. The pain, which can range from mild to very painfyl, for earaches usually results from the inflammation and swelling of any one of the structures of the ear, such as the middle ear, tympanic membrane (ear drum), and external auditory canal.
Causes of Earache
Some of the more common causes of earaches include:
- Otitis externa (Swimmer’s ear): skin infection of outer ear canal
- Otitis media: middle ear and tympanic membrane infection
- Myringitis: inflammation of the tympanic membrane
- Ear canal infection
- Glue ear: fluid buildup inside the ear
- Viruses leading to cold
- Ear injury for change in pressure
- Throat infection
- Tooth infection
- Damage to the inside of the ear using a cotton bud
- Soap or shampoo staying in the ear
- Arthritis of the jaw
- Facial nerve pain
Symptoms of Earache
The first symptom observed in earaches is the ear pain felt. Symptoms of earache will vary depending on the underlying cause:
- Earache due to cold
- Green or yellow mucus in the nose
- Difficulty sleeping
- Earache due to infection
- Usually abrupt extreme pain (due to increased pressure on tympanic membrane which has many nerve endings)
- Ringing or buzzing sounds
- Swelling of the ear
- Loss of appetite
- Increased pain during swallowing
- Poor sleep
- Fluid draining from ear, which may be yellow, brown, bloody or white (may indicate that the tympanic membrane has ruptured)
- Trouble hearing due to fluid buildup, which may eventually lead to hearing loss
Complications from Earaches
If left untreated, earaches can develop serious complications, such as:
- Infection of inner ear
- Scarring of eardrum
- Hearing loss
- Facial paralysis
- Problems with speech development
First Aid for Earache
Earaches are not always medical emergencies, however, when it is accompanied by high-grade fever or thick drainage from the ear. It may signify an immediate need for medical help. The following steps could help relieve of earache or ear discomfort.
- Place a cold pack or cold wet wash cloth on the outer ear for 20 minutes. This may help ease pain.
- If the person is old enough, chewing gum may help reduce pain and pressure.
- The person may be advised to sit upright to relieve of pressure in the middle ear.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications may be given such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Do not give aspirin to children.
- If the eardrum has not yet ruptured, OTC ear drops may be used.
To learn more on how to treat earaches and other ear conditions, enroll in St Mark James First Aid Courses to learn how to relieve symptoms of pain.