Severe ear pain & swelling, possible infection (again), what to do?

I am having progressively bad ear pain today, after experiencing minor but noticeable sound-muffling yesterday. I scheduled an appointment to go to urgent care tomorrow morning, but I have some questions first. The last time I felt pain like this was maybe 2(?) years ago, and I didn’t go to a doctor. I spent the next 2 weeks crying myself to sleep every night… despite taking ibuprofen round-the-clock and alternating hot/cold treatments as much as I could. It was really REALLY bad pain, and even though I’ve completed the “Kidney Stone!” achievement, I *really *don’t want to go through that again. :mad: :frowning: :frowning:

Additionally, just like last time, I can already feel my jaw beginning to displace due to the swelling in my ear canal. Initially, this made me think I might have had TMJ. Wasn’t the case though, IMO. Last time, my ear swelled almost all the way shut and dripped green goop for several days (which is what makes me think it’s probably an infection). I know TMJ issues can refer pain to the ear, but I truly don’t think that’s it (neither did my mom, who is an RN). Eventually, it resolved on its own, as non-emergency ear infections tend to do. But in the meantime, I was unable to chew anything harder than a mashed potato because I couldn’t bring my teeth together (and the crunchy sound of muffled mastication hurt). It also hurt to talk. DO. NOT. WANT!

Would a course of antibiotics do me good in the short term? Is there anything I can do or take to minimize swelling, other than heat/cold/ibuprofen? The online research I did seemed to indicate that doctors were beginning to prescribe fewer antibiotics for ear infections in lieu of self-treatment, because of antibiotic-resistant strains. But if I have to put up with 2 weeks of soft foods and constant pain and tears before bedtime, I won’t be held responsible for the consequences.

Any advice is much appreciated. Also, is there a safe way to disinfect my earbuds without damaging them? I’ve worn them to bed all week, and I don’t want to risk re-infection.

I have the same problem clearing up right now, happens to me every couple of years. In my case it is antibiotics only that help, I take the oral and an eardrop I got in Germany, ran out of the drops so I don’t know what they are called. All I can say is I know it hurts like hell and hope you get better soon.


Thanks, Kirky! Glad yours is on the uptake. Although maybe you gave it to me… >:[

Anyway, I did some more googling and wikipeding (it’s a word!), and found that Domeboro/Burow’s solution is an OTC eardrop preparation that is pretty effective at treating external ear infections. Which I think I have, because it hurts when I touch the outside of my ear. And apparently, external ear pain is an important diagnostic criterion in differentiating between an outer/inner ear infection. So I’m going to stop by the drugstore tonight and pick up some Domeboro. I hope it works fast :frowning:

Warn (not hot) H2O2 into the ear. Hot compresses.

Take some probiotics.

See your MD.

A home remedy for swimmer’s ear

This home remedy MIGHT help you. However, use at your own risk, etc.

Domeboro Otic is acetic acid (vinegar) and aluminum acetate otic. I was prescribed it many years ago for a severe otitis externa that actually closed my ear canal. The otolaryngologist first prescribed antibiotics (and IIRC steroids) to reduce the swelling and open the canal a bit. Some time later he inserted a sterile gauze wick in the ear which I had to keep wet with drops of the Domeboro. I don’t remember how long it actually took to fully recover. Eventually the Domeboro irritated my ear, making it itch. In my case, this turned out to be the sign that I almost completely back to normal.

While your symptoms do sound consistent with an ear infection, I would recommend seeing the doctor and not trying to treat this at home because if your ear drum has ruptured (which can sometimes happen with bad ear infections) then putting drops in your ear can cause problems. The doctor can look in your ear and see if the ear drum is intact.

In the meantime, I would NOT recommend putting water in an ear that might be infected. A lot of times these infections are caused by the ear not drying out properly from bathing/swimming (hence the common name “swimmer’s ear” for an external ear infection). Instead, I would suggest using a hair dryer to blow warm air on the ear to soothe it until you can see the doc. Or you could try putting some dry rice in a sock and microwaving it to make a hot compress.

Okay, I’ve never had goop dripping from my ear and that would freak me out. So, keep that in mind for the rest of my posting.

I get swimmer’s ear. Except for the green goop, it is a super-painful, cry-all-the-time type of pain. I usually get it on weekends when my options are ER or crying. What works for me is onions/garlic/oregano as follows:

Put a couple slices of onion and if I have it a clove of garlic and/or oregano leaves like what you use to cook with into a small sauce pan and cover with water. Bring to a boil until onions are soft.

Then I put a coffee filter into a bowl and pour the mixture on top of the coffee filter so that I can fold up the onion into the filter and use it as a compress. The goal is to NOT get any onion/garlic or oregano into the ear canal, so you don’t need a lot of onion or a lot of the other stuff. LET COOL until comfortable temperature (wipe off any oregano leaves on the outside).

I put this on my ear and, so far - knock wood, the pain goes away IMMEDIATELY. That is probably because of the moist heat. If I want to keep using the compress, I reheat the liquid in the microwave and dip the compress back into it. Be careful to not scorch your ear and I don’t squeeze the liquid into my ear, I just let the moist heat carry it in.

Onions, garlic and oregano all are anti-microbial/anti-bacterial. Oregano has been shown to kill MRSA (and I’ve used an oregano compress on a very large infection --about the size of a golf ball under the skin-- that was reduced by 50% within two hours.)

But, if I had green goop coming out of my ear, I’d be tempted to go to an ER.

Reference on the oregano oil:

Oh god.
I am not a doctor, I am not your doctor, I am a nurse but not your nurse, but I am also a fellow sufferer.

I have been through this too many times to count. If your ear was draining crap your ear drum most likely perforated. See a Doctor, get a referral to an EENT (Disclaimer: I am Canadian, in Canada, these visits don’t cost me a thing… YMMV) You most likely have conductive hearing loss going on. In July this happened, I could not work because the conductive hearing loss on top of my sensorineural hearing loss rendered me almost totally deaf. Antibiotics (most likey amoxicillin) may be prescribed, or may not. They may not even help, what may help is nasal steroid spray. This will decrease the swelling of your Eustachian Tubes. Mine came secondary to sinus infections which are notoriously hard to treat.
One thing to do is check if you have any dental infections that could also be contributing to the bacterial load in the area. I have one tooth that has a sort of pre abcess going on, interestingly on the same side and very near the affected ear.

Don’t mess around with your hearing. Friday I am getting my hearing aids. I have underlying conditions long term that have caused more loss than the infections, but my ear drums are paper thin and not stretchy or flexible, and my hearing is so bad now that the usual swollen shut muffled sound is dimmed down to deafness. For about ten days my husband would sit beside me on the couch and text me. … it was that bad.

Thanks for all the advice, guys and guyettes! I just had my appointment this morning and am starting on a 10-day scrip of amoxicillin now. Thank god! The eardrum isn’t perforated, at least. It hurts more and is swelling more, but that will be partially managed with my handy-dandy NSAID. I wasn’t able to find Domeboro when I talked to the Meijer pharmacy people last night, I guess not every place carries it? But I’ll focus on pain relief and take my pills. There is hearing loss/muffling in that ear right now (due to swelling), and my teeth aren’t meeting on that side again, but I imagine it will be mostly gone by next Monday (I have tomorrow off work, so I’ll have three days to heal quietly and peacefully at home). /fingercross

I don’t know if my eardrum perforated last time or not. But it’s not perforated now, which means I can try some of these compress ideas while the antibiotics work their sweet, sweet magic on my ear. And WOW on the oregano/MRSA connection! I will definitely make an oregano poultice if I can’t find Domeboro drops at the pharmacy.

Thanks again! :slight_smile:

Update: left ear is draining and progressing quite well since I was prescribed a 10-day course of amoxicillin. The bad news, my right ear is now starting to hurt and swell. insert long string of profanity So, do I need to get an extension on the amoxicillin? Can I just ask them to call in a half-refill or does this require another office visit? How common is it for an ear infection to jump to the other ear, without a perforation (which the doctor didn’t indicate I had)?

Disinfect those earbuds and any headset you use at work! Clean your phones - anything that comes into contact with your ear. I use a heavy dose of Lysol spray on a paper towel to wipe everything down.

Unless they’re super expensive amazing ear buds, throw them out. Get a new pair. Throw those out in 2-4 weeks. Repeat for the next 6 months or until you’re infection free for 6 months. Then replace the ear buds every 6 months or whenever you get another infection.

There’s no good way to sanitize ear buds completely. You can (and should) use a disinfecting wipe or a cotton ball onto which you’ve sprayed disinfectant to wipe the surface at least daily, but ear buds generally have holes, grooves or ridges where bacteria can (and does) hide, and wipes/cotton balls can’t reach. For most of us, it’s not really a problem, and we can keep using the same ear buds for years, but given that you’re apparently prone to ear infections…

And yes, I’ll vouch for the onion/garlic/oregano poultice. It can also be made in olive oil, and after straining it through several layers of cheesecloth - as long as your eardrum is intact - you can put a drop or two of the oil in the infected ear a few times a day (and the leftover oil when your ear infection is gone is delicious brushed on toasted bread!)

Some people just squeeze a few drops of onion juice right into their ear, but I have to admit I can’t quite figure out the logistics of that. Either they have stronger hands or juicier onions than I do.

Mullein leaf and St. John’s Wort extracted in oil is another traditional ear infection remedy I’ve had good luck with, but most people apparently don’t have mullein leaf and St. John’s Wort in their kitchen. Can you imagine? :smiley:

I’ve been fighting the same thing for about 3 weeks. Went on a 1 wk amoxicillin regimen that took about 5 days to kick in. All the pain went away, but the muffled hearing never got better. Two days after the antibiotics were done, I was right back to where I was before. I’m one week past that now, and will probably go to the clinic this week.

I try to look at the good side-- if I sleep on my right side, I can’t hear any noises, even with all the windows open! :slight_smile:

Dudes and dudettes- be sure to go on a complete course of probiotics after you finish your antibiotics.

I haven’t been using my earbuds since my left ear began showing symptoms on Wednesday, so I don’t think that’s how it happened. And I actually bought a new pair already, to use once my antibiotics are finished. I think my right ear might have picked it up from my pillowcase, because I flip sides a lot in my sleep. :frowning:

I do have lysol though, I’ll be sure to use it.

Update: just ordered a 1 ounce bottle of oregano oil through Amazon. It’s a 70% concentration of carvacrol in olive oil, do I need to dilute it more than that? Is it ok to drink it or should I apply it topically? Or both?


(Sorry to yell, but my aromatherapy teacher - of all people who should have known better - burned her esophagus from tasting just a single drop of oregano oil.)

The dilution I generally use for essential oils are based on pure essential oil, so I’m not sure what to tell you for dilution. Check the website of the manufacturer and any instructions on the bottle.

If you can find absolutely no directions anywhere, then - if it were I, this is not actual advice - I’d start with one ounce of olive oil and 12 drops of your oregano oil. I’d mix them and take a Q-tip and put a little on the inside of my wrist. I’d wait and see what it feels like. If it burned like hell, I’d wash it off with soap and water and dilute the mixture further. If it didn’t feel like anything at all, I’d add another drop of oregano oil and try again. If it made a nice, gentle warming sensation, I’d call it just right.

I clean my earbuds and regular headset with those little rubbing alcohol wipes for diabetics. My goal is to prevent pimples (I’m prone to getting them just inside my ears if I’m lax with cleaning) but I imagine the alcohol kills bacteria too, not just cleans off pore clogging oil. It doesn’t do the silicone ear buds any harm that I can tell.

This is fantastic, thank you. It won’t be here until Tuesday. :slight_smile: And I’ve got a bottle of olive oil just waiting to be a diluent.