What do you need to know about ear care? Well, in a healthy person, ears pretty well take care of themselves. The most delicate parts are sheltered by the structure of the head. The ears produce wax, which protects the inner workings of the ear and the eardrum from dust and dirt particles. This wax then moves out of the ear, taking any dirt or dust with it.
So, if ears take care of themselves, where does an earache come from? Sometimes a virus or bacteria gets into the ear and this infection causes ear pain. This is particularly likely to happen when you already have a cold or other respiratory illness. Fluid can also back up in the middle ear canal (called the Eustachian tube), blocking the tube and providing a place for bacterial to grow and flourish.
So what does good ear care consist of? Well, to start with, you've probably heard the old saying, "Don't put anything smaller than your elbow into your ear." Actually, doctors usually say you can put your finger, wrapped in a washcloth, in your ear. That's the best way to clean your ears. You don't want to remove all of the earwax because, as we discussed earlier, earwax serves a purpose.
There are a few ways to prevent an earache.
First, practice good ear care. Don't stick things in your ear and don't try to remove all of the earwax. You can safely remove the wax that accumulates in the outer part of your ear.
Second, take steps to protect yourself from colds and other respiratory infections. Wash your hands frequently and avoid people with colds, allergies, or other respiratory illnesses when you can. Avoid smoking as well, as it has been known to contribute to ear infections.
Finally, there are tubes that can be implanted in the ears to help with drainage. These are usually used for children. Children are more likely to develop an earache than adults, because they have shorter Eustachian tubes. It is easier for bacteria and viruses to reach the inner ear and more difficult for fluid to drain properly. If your child does have tubes implanted in his or her ears, make sure to talk with the doctor about proper ear care.
If proper ear care doesn't do the trick, there are a few different ways to treat an earache.
Ear infections are usually treated with antibiotics, although these are not effective for earaches caused by viruses. Antibiotics may have side effects, and frequent use can cause you to build up a resistance to the drug.
As mentioned earlier, children sometimes have tubes surgically implanted to improve the drainage in their ears and prevent infections. This procedure is generally done under general anesthesia, and carries all the risks common with surgery.
Some people prefer to practice natural ear care and the treat ear pain naturally. Natural treatments don't have the risks or side effects of traditional medical treatment. They can have other health benefits, as well.
See a doctor if your earache lasts more than a day or too, or if you have a fever or other signs of illness. A doctor should see children with earaches within a day or two, as well. Ask your doctor about good ear care.
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