Ear Infections: Causes, Types, Prevention and Natural Remedies

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Ear infection is a common infection in humans, it occurs when a microbe infects parts of the ear and the inflammation and buildup of fluids in the ears lead to severe pain. It can be chronic or acute and if left untreated, it can cause permanent damage and hearing loss to an individual.
Ear infections are more common in children than in adults and it clears on its own in most cases because it is most times minor. It is more serious in adults and it can be a sign of an underlying health problem which can be serious.

Types of Ear Infections

There are three main types of ear infections and they affect the different parts of the ears. The ears are dived into three main parts and they are the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

Outer Ear Infection

This type of ear infection is also called “swimmer’s ear infection” because it mostly occurs in swimmers and it is caused by the accumulation of water in the ears after swimming.
This creates a moist environment in the ear which later becomes a habitable and breeding ground for bacteria. It can also be caused when your ear is scratched or when you put in contaminated fingers or objects in your ears that can irritate the lining of your ears.
The outer part of the ear is the visible part of your ear outside of your head. It is also called otitis externa. This infection mostly starts like an itchy rash and the outer ear becomes swollen, painful, red, and tender.

Middle Ear Infections

The middle part of your ear is the area at the back of your eardrum. The middle ear is also known as otitis media and it occurs when fluids are trapped behind your eardrum. This leads to inflammation and makes your eardrum to bulge.
It is accompanied by an earache and an escape of fluid from the ear. You might have difficulty hearing until the fluid is eliminated and sometimes, it comes along with a fever.
Colds and other respiratory infections and problems raise the risk for this infection and they move into your ears through the Eustachian tubes which connect the back of the nose with the throat and aid the regulation of air pressure inside your ears.

Inner Ear Infections

This infection affects the eardrum and it is mostly caused by inflammation and may not really be an actual infection. Inner ear infection is characterized by the inflammation of the labyrinths, the structures in the ears that are responsible for hearing and balance.
It can also be a sign of a serious health problem like meningitis. Signs and symptoms that are specific to only inner ear infections are nausea and vomiting, the ringing of the ears known as tinnitus, headaches, and dizziness.

Causes of Ear Infections

Your ears can become infected when your Eustachian tube is blocked, inflamed or swollen. This leads to the accumulation and buildup of fluids in your ears.
Factors or things that can make the Eustachian tube blocked and swollen are:

  • Harmful microbes like viruses and bacteria; this can be caused by infected adenoids. The adenoids are tissues near your tonsils that help tame harmful microbes.
  • Allergies
  • Injuries to the ears
  • Smoking
  • Changes in air pressure
  • Sinus infections
  • Colds
  • Excess production of mucus

Symptoms of Ear Infections

General symptoms of an ear infection are:

  • Fluid drainage that is like pus
  • Inflammation and pain
  • Pains and discomforts inside your ears
  • Changes in hearing
  • You will notice fussiness and restlessness in little children and infants
  • Itching
  • Ear pain
  • Vertigo
  • Tenderness of the ears when touched
  • A persistent feeling of pressure inside the infected ear
  • A high body temperature signaling an infection
  • Dizziness and headaches
  • Balance problems
  • Swelling of the infected ear
  • Labyrinthitis (inflammation of the structures in the inner ear)
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weaknesses and fatigue

These symptoms can be chronic or acute and their severity and duration depend on the infection. Double ear infection has the most severe pain.
Though in most cases, ear infections clear up on their own without your help but in cases of recurrence and chronic ear infection, you have to take it seriously if not it can lead to permanent hearing loss, a ruptured and damaged eardrum, speech delay in kids, meningitis, and Mastoiditis.

How to Prevent Ear Infections?

Natural Remedies for Ear Infections

Antibiotics are generally used to treat ear infections caused by bacteria. These natural remedies that will be listed here are very effective in treating ear infections caused by many things including viruses since antibiotics can only work for bacteria.
They are helpful and very effective for both kids and adults.

Hydrogen Peroxide

This is a common household remedy for lots of infections and ear infection is not left out. It has antimicrobial properties that help kill the organism behind the infection and it cleanses the ears.
Have the patient lie down with the infected ear facing up or if you are the one with the infection, lie down and let the infected ear face up. Use a dropper and pour few drops of three percent hydrogen peroxide inside the infected ear.
Fill the ear canal with this liquid and stay still so that it won’t pour out. It will give a cold sensation and a tickling feeling and if there is an infection, you will know by the presence of white bubbly foam that will be coming out of the ears.
This is normal and there is no need to panic. Let the hydrogen peroxide be in your ear for at least ten minutes before draining it out, put a towel or clean cloth on the ear so that the liquid won’t touch anywhere else.
You can turn your head the other way to let it drain out. Do these three times until the infection heals. There will be less reaction (fewer bubbles) coming out of the ear as the infection heals.
Lots of ear wax will come out of the ear canal because hydrogen peroxide softens ear wax. This is a highly effective home remedy for an ear infection and you might not need another natural remedy.

Onions

Onions
Onion juice is a great relief for ear infections, it relieves the symptoms and cures it. Onions contain powerful antiseptic and antimicrobial properties and it hastens healing by boosting the immune system.
Cook a small onion and juice it, when the juice is warm, use a dropper and add few drops of the juice into the infected ear. Drain it out after five minutes and clean your ear with a cotton ball after that. Do this three times daily.

Vitamin D

This vitamin boosts your immune system and studies have proven its effectiveness in treating ear infections. It treats and reduces the risk of ear infections (otitis media).
Increased exposure to mild sunlight and regular intake of vitamin D rich foods like eggs, organic poultry and supplements help increase the levels of vitamin D in your body and this, in turn, will fight and prevent ear infections.

Probiotics

This helps in cases of pediatric ear infections. These are beneficial bacteria that help in killing harmful microbes that cause infection and they also boost the immune system.
Fermented fruits, grains, vegetables and other foods are rich in probiotics. Take kefir, cultured yogurts, coconut kefir, kimchi, Kombucha and other foods that are rich in probiotics and you can also give them to kids having ear infections.
Regular consumption of these foods prevents this infection from happening in the first place.

Ginger

Ginger
Gingerols present in ginger root fights all kinds of infections and relieves the symptoms of ear infection like pain, and inflammation. Drink many cups of ginger tea daily till the infection is gone, and then you can crush fresh ginger root and extract the juice.
Drop few drops of this juice into the infected ear and let it stay in the ear for at least ten minutes before you drain it out. Do these three times daily and always clean your ear with a cotton bud after draining out the liquid.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea Tree Oil
This is one of the most popular natural remedies for microbial infections because it has powerful compounds that fight a wide range of harmful microbes. It is a natural antiseptic and it has been used for centuries and till date, it is still being used, even in eastern medicine.
Get tea tree oil and dilute it with coconut oil or olive oil. These carrier oils have their own antimicrobial and antiseptic properties and they fight off infection only and they help to reduce the concentration of tea tree oil to prevent allergies and other reactions.
Don’t put it directly into the ear, use this mixture to massage around the ears.

Peppermint

Peppermint Oil
Both the leaves and essential oil of peppermint are effective remedies for an ear infection; they are loaded with antibacterial, antiseptic, anesthetic, and anti-inflammatory properties.
Crush fresh peppermint leaves so that you can extract the juice, use a dropper and add three drops of this juice into the infected ear. You can also dilute peppermint essential oil with either coconut oil or olive oil and rub this mixture around your ear.
Don’t put peppermint oil directly into your ears because it is very strong. Do these three times every day.

Garlic

Raw Garlic
Garlic is a strong natural antibiotic which can kill all kinds of microbes, including viruses and fungi and that is why it tops the list of home remedies for a lot of microbial infections.
It is a powerful remedy for an ear infection and it shortens the duration of the infection. To treat ear infections, garlic oil is usually used, you can buy garlic oil from natural health stores and even pharmacy but in case it comes suddenly and you don’t have access to these stores, you can make yours at home.
Garlic oil is very easy to make at home. Get a clove of fresh and organic garlic and some tablespoons of virgin olive oil or coconut oil. Peel the garlic and mince it, combine it with two tablespoons of the oil of your choice and put it in a container.
Leave this mixture to sit for two to four hours so that the garlic can steep properly and release its active compound Allicin and other healing properties. This oil contains all the therapeutic benefits of garlic and the oil also contains its own therapeutic effects.
After 2 or 4 hours, strain the oil and add 3 drops into the infected ear using a dropper. Do this four times daily. For little children, use more oil and less amount of garlic.

Radish

Radish
Radish, though a spice, it has therapeutic properties that fight a lot of health problems including ear ache, pain, and inflammation. Add a teaspoon of radish pieces to two tablespoons of mustard oil.
Warm this solution on a low heat for ten minutes. Strain the mixture so that you can separate the pieces of radish and then use a dropper to add three drops of this oil into your ear while you save the remaining one in a bottle.
Do this three times daily. It relieves pain, and hasten healing.

Breast Milk

Breast Milk
This is an effective remedy for both children and adults, but it is best for babies whose immune systems are still developing. Breast milk contains antibodies made by the mother and they help fight infections.
Breastfeed your baby regularly and then you can put few drops of breast milk into the infected ear. This hastens healing and fights inflammation, you will notice that the swellings will go down.
Do this every few hours till the infection clear off.

Warm or Cold Compress

Heat or cold can help relieve pain, this remedy is safe for both adults and children. You can make use of a warm or cold compress or you can alternate the two.
You can use a cloth soaked in warm or cold water or you can use ice packs or heating pads. Place this compress on the affected area for ten minutes, this will relieve pains.

Eliminate Allergies

Allergies, especially food allergies are one of the root causes of ear infection, knowing your triggers or your child triggers can prevent ear infection from recurring.
Studies have proven that children with food allergies have frequent ear infections than children without food allergies. Food allergy leads to accumulation of fluid in their ear thereby causing an infection of the middle ear.
Common foods children are allergic to are gluten, soy, peanuts, dairy, and some other foods. You can go for an IgG food sensitivity test, this will reveal foods that you are allergic to. This is the test for food intolerance and sensitivities.

Mango Leave

Mango leaves
Mango leave juice is a powerful remedy for ear infection. It has strong antimicrobial property and it treats this infection and hastens healing. Get fresh and tender leaves of mango.
Crush three or more of these leaves and extract the juice. Use a dropper to add few drops of this juice inside your ear and let it sit for few minutes before draining it out.
Do this three times daily, it will treat this infection, hasten healing and relieve pain and inflammation.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar
This is another powerful remedy for ear infections. It fights harmful microbes, including fungus growing in and around the ears. It contains acids that help in killing these microbes and making the ears inhabitable for them.
It also fights inflammation and boosts your immune system. Dilute it with water and add three drops into the infected ear and drain it out after some minutes. You can also use it to massage around your ears.
Gargling with a solution of ACV (warm water and ACV) will help clean your nose, ears, and throat because passages connect these organs. This act will help kill microbes in the Eustachian tubes.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberry Syrup
This is an important remedy for a lot of illnesses, it has powerful immune boosting properties and it also contains lots of antiviral and antibacterial compounds which help in fighting infections and killing the pathogens responsible for those infections.
You can get this from any health store and you can also make yours at home. It has a sweet taste and kids will love it. If you want to make yours at home, you will need dried black elderberries, you can add the fresh ones but the dried ones should be more.
You will also need clean water, cinnamon powder, ginger root, either fresh or dried; clove powder and raw honey. Pour water into a pot and put it on fire, add your elderberries, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger.
Let it boil until the liquid has reduced by half and then you remove it from the heat and let it cool. Use a spoon and mash the berries, sieve this mixture into a clean container or glass jar. Discard the berries and add a cup of raw honey to the cold liquid and use a spoon to stir it well. Then pour it into a clean container with a lid. Your homemade elderberry syrup is ready.
Store it in a fridge and take it daily to fight infections and boost your immune system. Kids below the age of two should be given half tablespoon three times daily and adults can take a tablespoon three times daily.

Colloidal Silver

Colloidal Silver
This substance is a natural antibiotic, it inhibits the supply of oxygen to microbes that cause infections thereby stopping the infection and killing the causal organisms.
You use it the same way you use hydrogen peroxide but in this case, you don’t fill the ear canal, you only add three drops of colloidal silver. Use it in both ears if you want to prevent it from spreading.
Leave the colloidal silver in the ear for at least 15 minutes, and then you allow it to drain out. This is very effective for swimmer’s ear (outer ear infection).

Coconut oil

Coconut Oil Cleansing
This wonderful oil contains lauric acids which have antimicrobial properties. It treats this infection and relieves the symptoms. Place few drops of coconut oil in the infected ear and leave it for 20 minutes.

Olive Oil

Olive Oils
This remedy effectively treats ear infections caused by a bacterial or fungi infection of the ear wax. The microbial growth of the ear wax leads to blockages in the Eustachian tubes. Olive oil clears up these blockages and relieves this infection.
Warm olive oil slightly using low heat and add few drops into the infected ear and leave it for some minutes. This will soften the wax and drain it out.
After you have drained the ear, clean it with a cotton bud. Do this three times every day.

Mullein

Mullein
Mullein is an herb with strong antimicrobial and antiseptic properties and this makes it one of the best natural cures for earaches and infections.
The essential oil is used to relieve ear infection, or you can make use of a tincture containing only mullein or a combination of mullein and other herbs.
Drop a few drops of mullein essential oil or tincture inside the infected ear to relieve pain and treat the infection, it is a strong natural pain relief and it also serves as a natural anesthetic.
Veterinary doctors also use it to treat ear infections in dogs.

Salt

Salt
Salt is a common kitchen ingredient and an effective remedy for ear infections. It helps drain fluids from the ear that might be causing the blockages and infections.
Heat salt on a low heat and tie it in a clean cloth. Leave it to get warm and place this warm salt on the infected ear for ten minutes. Do this once daily.
This will relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation by drawing out the accumulated liquid in the ear. You can use rice in place of salt.

Rest

Rest helps your immune system overcome this infection. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, herbs and other healthy foods to also help boost your immune system and help you fight off this infection.

Basil Leaves

Basil Leaves
This herb is dense in powerful antioxidants and antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. You can use the essential oil or the juice to treat ear infections.
Crush fresh and tender leaves of holy basil and extract the juice. Do not put this into the ear canal but rub it around the infected ear and on the ear.
When using basil essential oil, dilute it with coconut or olive oil in equal amounts and dip a cotton ball in this mixture. Use the cotton ball to gently clean inside your ears and around it. Do this three times daily.

This article is for educative purposes only and not to be substituted for professional medical advice.