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  #1  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:10 PM
Moe Moe is online now
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Any benefit to olive oil in ear for infection?

I've had an ear infection in each ear for a week now. It's driving me crazy. It basically started last Wednesday while landing during a flight. My ears popped as usual, but failed to unpop. I can feel the fluid in my ears from time to time, but I've constantly had that head-in-a-fishbowl feeling. I feel like the fluid in there simply won't drain.

OK so, first off, I'd really really like to avoid having to go to a doctor on account of the fact that I have no insurance in the states. (If I was in Germany I'd go for sure but I'm not going back till August). I've tried holding my nose and blowing to equalize the pressure and I've shaken up the fluid a bit but it doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

I've also been waking up the last few days with a tight chest and yellow phlegm. No other cold symptoms though.

I keep reading from various home-remedy-type sites that a little drop of warm olive oil in the ear can help to clear it. But I can't find any solid medical looking sites that back it up. Is there any benefit?
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  #2  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:14 PM
XT XT is offline
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Anecdotally, it's the cure my grandmother and mother used on us kids (along with Clorox to gargle with...don't ask) and if nothing else it seemed to sooth the ache. We didn't have money for fancy stuff like doctors when I was a kid, so it was all home remedies. I guess they were effective since none of us died, and like the guy turned into a newt we all got better...

-XT
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  #3  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:19 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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The warmth might cause some blood vessels to dilate, causing symptomatic relief perhaps. And it might just feel good against that inflamed eardrum.

Plus, soaking in warm water or applying hot wet compresses is often good in bringing something like a pimple or cyst to a head and letting it drain (though I doubt the same effect would work in the ear).

I wonder if a neti pot might be a good idea. 15 dollars or less at the local health food store, it would help wash away the crud from your nasal passages and help relieve congestion there, which may help promote drainage in other parts of the nose / ear system.

I don't think I'd recommend the ear-blowing technique.

And I suspect that taking a small-sized drill bit to the eardrum would be a very bad idea no matter how logical it seems .
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  #4  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:20 PM
papergirl papergirl is offline
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Occasionally I use it on my daughter when she has an earache. She reports that it helps and makes it feel better. The effects are temporary, but it's a good short-term aid while you're waiting for the meds (or booze) to kick in.
I've heard a blowdryer has a similar effect. I'm assuming it's the heat. I also give the Weeping Princess a really hot washcloth to hold on the affected ear; that helps for a bit as well.
Good luck. That's some sucky pain.
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  #5  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:21 PM
Mama Zappa Mama Zappa is offline
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Oh - and Sudafed (generic: pseudoephedrine), which is a decongestant and, again, might shrink the tissues and let the Bad Stuff drain. Get the real stuff that you have tp sign for, not the phenylephrine "PE" stuff that is out on the shelves.
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  #6  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:29 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Are you sure it's not just earwax? Best treatment for that is getting eardrops that dissolve the wax. If it's really stuck in there, I think you can get a kit with a syringe to flush things out. [If that doesn't work, time for the medical pros to take over]
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  #7  
Old 07-06-2011, 03:45 PM
TruCelt TruCelt is offline
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I came to recommend pseudoephedrine as well. Symptomatically the best thing I've found is to run the hairdrier pointed into the ear, but this doesn't affect the root cause.

The canal leading from the infected spot to the drain at the base of your tongue (Eustachian tube) runs roughly from the base of your ear under the lobe to the bottom of your jaw joint. Diagram at slide 4 If you press into that dent and rub downward you should quickly find the path that "hurts so good."

Pseudoephedrine to shrink the tissues + Warm wet compress on the area + swallowing lots of warm beverage (prefereably plain water but tea if you must) + rubbing eustachian tube in a downward motion to encourage movement, should help clear out the pressure.

If not, you probably need medical help. Resist the urge to pour hydrogen peroxide and other cleansers into the outer part of the ear. This will only increase the irritation. Nothing will get past the eardrum to the affected area.

Last edited by TruCelt; 07-06-2011 at 03:46 PM..
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  #8  
Old 07-06-2011, 04:09 PM
Baracus Baracus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Zappa View Post
I don't think I'd recommend the ear-blowing technique.
This is worth repeating. Holding your nose and blowing will just push more crap into your inner ear.
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  #9  
Old 07-06-2011, 04:13 PM
XT XT is offline
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...unless you are a ogre, in which case it makes a funny horn blowing/trumpet type sound...

-XT
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  #10  
Old 07-06-2011, 04:24 PM
Moe Moe is online now
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Originally Posted by Baracus View Post
This is worth repeating. Holding your nose and blowing will just push more crap into your inner ear.
Damn. I've been doing that a lot. (and sadly, no funny trumpet sound).
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  #11  
Old 07-06-2011, 05:19 PM
chorpler chorpler is offline
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This device claims to use vibrations to open up the Eustachian tubes and allow fluid in the inner ear to drain out. It's meant for ear infections in children who aren't old enough to yawn or chew gum until their ears pop. Does anybody know if it works? I've often thought that if it does work, it would be an awesome device to have ... but it might just be a scam.
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  #12  
Old 07-06-2011, 05:36 PM
dropzone dropzone is offline
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Years ago drug stores sold small bottles of olive oil for use as ear drops. This was when olive oil was only eaten by Italians and if there were no Italians in town there was no olive oil. Whatever you use, make sure it's at body temperature before you drip it in. I once trusted my wife to heat it under the hot water faucet and she damn near killed me. Now I heat it myself by holding it in my armpit for a few minutes.
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  #13  
Old 07-06-2011, 05:57 PM
echoreply echoreply is online now
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For similar problems I had very good luck using guaifenesin tablets. It thins and increases the flow of mucus, so it is often used to relieve congested sinuses, among other things. You probably have some in your medicine cabinet as a nasty cold remedy syrup, but the pills, usually with a cough suppressant, are much more palatable.

Anyway, when my ears get congested like that, I will take the pills for a day or two, in the recommended dosage, so one every six hours or something, and that will loosen things up enough for my ears to clear on their own. Just one pill doesn't help, it's the continuous use for a day or two that does it.
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  #14  
Old 07-06-2011, 06:35 PM
Scathach Scathach is offline
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Don't know how medically accurate this is, but any source of heat should help because it dilates the blood vessels and increases blood flow to the area, so more antibodies etc. Same principle as a hot compress for a spot.
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  #15  
Old 07-06-2011, 06:53 PM
Crazyhorse Crazyhorse is offline
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FWIW, for a cat with ear mites my vet said to swab out the inner ear using a cotton swab with a little "olive oil or baby oil" before putting his medicine in. He said it breaks up the wax (which in this case is a mix of wax, mites, blood, feces, etc. that looks like coffee grounds in the ears) and allows the medicine to reach the inner ear better. For this purpose it seems any oil that is either potable or at least non-toxic would work but he did name olive oil specifically.
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  #16  
Old 07-06-2011, 07:14 PM
elfkin477 elfkin477 is offline
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I've never heard of using olive oil. Just garlic oil to clear out the infection, and sweet oil to help with pain. I don't know if the former works, but sweet oil does seem to reduce pain quite a bit.

Edit: it appears that depending on the brand, sweet oil might be olive oil. Or rapeseed oil. Or vegetable oil...

Last edited by elfkin477; 07-06-2011 at 07:16 PM..
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  #17  
Old 07-06-2011, 08:05 PM
Student Driver Student Driver is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dropzone View Post
Years ago drug stores sold small bottles of olive oil for use as ear drops.
They still do. It's euphemistically called "sweet oil" as Elfkin477 indicates, and doesn't have labeling that indicates it for anything medical, but it's stocked with ear drops and ear wax remedies.

Last edited by Student Driver; 07-06-2011 at 08:06 PM..
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  #18  
Old 07-06-2011, 08:48 PM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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Many ear infections will resolve without antibiotics or intervention of any kind and oil drops in the ear (such as olive) can, as mentioned above, provide symptomatic relief while waiting it out, if such is the action decided upon.

My own best guess explanation has always been that the nerves from the drum can only carry so much information at a time. A significant amount of low level sensation from the oil decreases the room for pain signals in the same fibers. FWIW.
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  #19  
Old 07-06-2011, 09:32 PM
appleciders appleciders is offline
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My mother used to do that. She'd heat it, too, not to burning but past the point of comfort. It got to the point where Dad admitted that he denied having earaches to avoid the oil treatment. I have no real memory of it working or not working.
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  #20  
Old 07-06-2011, 09:47 PM
Wesley Clark Wesley Clark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chorpler View Post
This device claims to use vibrations to open up the Eustachian tubes and allow fluid in the inner ear to drain out. It's meant for ear infections in children who aren't old enough to yawn or chew gum until their ears pop. Does anybody know if it works? I've often thought that if it does work, it would be an awesome device to have ... but it might just be a scam.
Interesting device, but it costs $50. The reviews on amazon are a mix of 1 star and 5 star reviews. I may buy one, not sure. I have been getting recurring ear issues this last year.
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  #21  
Old 07-07-2011, 12:29 AM
Moe Moe is online now
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So in this thread some posts claim oil in the ear might be beneficial in relieving pain, and I think one mention (which I've seen elsewhere on the net) that it might help clear out wax, but most of the posts seem pretty anecdotal for GQ. Is there any science behind the oil method?

And elfkin, I'm particularly curious about you mentioning garlic oil to clear out the infection. Since I might very well have a bacterial infection, is there any science behind using garlic oil for this?
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  #22  
Old 07-07-2011, 02:43 AM
Crazyhorse Crazyhorse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moe View Post
So in this thread some posts claim oil in the ear might be beneficial in relieving pain, and I think one mention (which I've seen elsewhere on the net) that it might help clear out wax, but most of the posts seem pretty anecdotal for GQ. Is there any science behind the oil method?
There may be a large number of scientific studies that in some way demonstrate that adding oil to something that was once oily but has dried out will make it oily again.

That seems to be the general principle at work, based on the numerous cites I find by searching "why does oil remove ear wax". Wax that begins to dry out and become less oily clogs the ear more readily than soft, oily wax. Adding oil makes it oily.

If you suspect you have an ear infection as opposed to just waxy ears you probably would benefit more from some antibiotics than olive oil.
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  #23  
Old 07-07-2011, 07:42 AM
Edward The Head Edward The Head is offline
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Have you tried going to something like a Minute Clinic or something like that? They might be able to check you out for a lot cheaper then going to a doctor, especially for something like an ear infection. Meds should hopefully be cheaper too as you could probably get a generic brand.
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  #24  
Old 07-07-2011, 09:19 AM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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I've found the most success with OTC ear drops + ibuprofen + VERY hot compress + massager vibrations. You can buy medicated ear drops over the counter. Not as strong as prescription, but still pretty good. I deal with a LOT of ear issues because I have very sticky wax and twisted ear canals (I think the technical term is occluded or something like that). This combination of remedies works well on an ear infection, but it takes a few days.

I've never tried olive oil. Maybe I will next time it crops up.
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  #25  
Old 07-07-2011, 10:21 AM
Baracus Baracus is offline
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Originally Posted by rachelellogram View Post
I've found the most success with OTC ear drops + ibuprofen + VERY hot compress + massager vibrations. You can buy medicated ear drops over the counter. Not as strong as prescription, but still pretty good. I deal with a LOT of ear issues because I have very sticky wax and twisted ear canals (I think the technical term is occluded or something like that). This combination of remedies works well on an ear infection, but it takes a few days.
One thing that people need to be mindful of is that there are different types of ear infections. While ear drops may be helpful for outer ear infections, i.e. "swimmer's ear", it sounds like Moe has an inner/middle ear infection in which case the ear drum will prevent any ear drops from reaching the site of infection.
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  #26  
Old 07-08-2011, 10:13 AM
Moe Moe is online now
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Will this eventually take care of itself or, absent antibiotics, will I just have to live the rest of my health-insurance-less life like this?? (Incidentally, it should be noted that I make my living partially as a musician).
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  #27  
Old 07-08-2011, 10:16 AM
Moe Moe is online now
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Originally Posted by Baracus View Post
One thing that people need to be mindful of is that there are different types of ear infections. While ear drops may be helpful for outer ear infections, i.e. "swimmer's ear", it sounds like Moe has an inner/middle ear infection in which case the ear drum will prevent any ear drops from reaching the site of infection.
I believe I read on some site regarding ear infections in children/babies (as most of them seem to be) that what typically happens is that the ear drum ruptures, releasing the fluid. Am I just waiting for my ear drum to rupture? I know I've been advised against the holding my nose and blowing technique but would that speed up the process?
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  #28  
Old 07-08-2011, 10:22 AM
fumster fumster is offline
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My remedy is to put a wadded up paper towel in the bottom of a coffee cup and then pour very hot water in to just moisten the towel. Being very careful, tilt your head put your ear over the cup and press to seal it as best you can. Leave it there for several minutes to soften the wax.
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  #29  
Old 07-08-2011, 10:22 AM
Deegeea Deegeea is offline
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If it is a bacterial infection and continues, it may permanently damage your hearing. It will either get worse or go away, it is very unlikely to just stay the same forever.

To prevent this sort of thing occuring in the future, take the pseudephedrine before the flight. It comes in 24 hour version, take that if you have a long flight.
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  #30  
Old 07-08-2011, 11:21 AM
DSeid DSeid is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moe View Post
So in this thread some posts claim oil in the ear might be beneficial in relieving pain, and I think one mention (which I've seen elsewhere on the net) that it might help clear out wax, but most of the posts seem pretty anecdotal for GQ. Is there any science behind the oil method?

And elfkin, I'm particularly curious about you mentioning garlic oil to clear out the infection. Since I might very well have a bacterial infection, is there any science behind using garlic oil for this?
Regarding ear wax: Some people naturally have drier ear wax that clogs. Lubricating it and softening it with oil helps it come out. The experiment is easy to do for yourself - take a candle and flake off some wax, press it gently in two identical U-shaped piles (just enough that it sticks) on a piece of leather and place that on an incline U faced up. In each U put some oil. Repeat 3x a day for several days, then observe. What do you observe?

As to the science of holding off on antibiotics and the relative efficacy of oil drops for pain relief, I submit this study looking at confirmed acute otitis media in children over age 5 years.
Quote:
171 children who were aged 5 to 18 years and had otalgia and clinical findings associated with middle-ear infection were studied. The children were randomly assigned to receive treatment with Naturopathic Herbal Extract Ear Drops (NHED) or anesthetic ear drops, with or without amoxicillin. On enrollment, the children were assigned by computer-numbered randomization to receive NHED (contents: allium sativum, verbascum thapsus, calendula flores, hypericum perfoliatum, lavender, and vitamin E in olive oil) 5 drops 3 times daily, alone (group A) or together with a topical anesthetic (amethocaine and phenazone in glycerin) 5 drops 3 times daily (group B), or oral amoxicillin 80 mg/kg/d (maximum 500 mg/dose) divided into 3 doses with either NHED 5 drops 3 times daily (group C) or topical anesthetic 5 drops 3 times daily (group D). A double-blind design was used, and all ear drops were placed in identical bottles ... There were no significant between-group differences in patient age or gender, degree of fever, main symptoms, associated symptoms, and severity or laterality of acute otitis media. Each group had a statistically significant improvement in ear pain over the course of the 3 days.
To summarize: oil drops (in this case olive oil with a variety of other herbal crud) provided as good of pain relief as did anesthetic drops, and antibiotics did not make any difference for this group of children over 5 yo with simple middle ear infections.

Current guidelines encourage watchful waiting before prescribing antibiotics for acute otitis media for those over 2 years of age who do not have severe illness. Most of the time it resolves on its own and only infrequently do we see ear drum ruptures (although it certainly does occur).

Pseudoephedrine does not help prevent otitis media or to treat it.
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