I’m sitting here after a week away from the computer, valiantly trying to get my eustachian tubes to open. My right ear has been clogged for a week and my left opens up after much stretching of my mandibles.
The congestion, stuffiness and pressure of sinus and ear pain. Your head feels like it’s under water and weighs more than a hundred pounds. Your eyes are puffy and you are unable to concentrate on the computer screen and words appear to be floating across the page. If you have ever suffered from any or all of these symptoms, then you know what I am talking about. As for me, the dust and dryness of cleaning the barn all week has wreaked havoc on my sinus cavities and nasal passages.
So far, I’ve managed to avoid the fever and my cough is minimal, mucous is clear but thick. I’m managing my symptoms through a combination of steaming with essential oils, heat, nasal saline irrigations and the occasional antihistamine.
To alleviate the symptoms of sinus congestion, I searched the web for the most viable and easy at home alternatives. But before we discuss the cure, lets do a bit more investigation on the cause. To do so, we need to understand the anatomy of the middle ear.
Ear infections are most commonly found in the middle ear (otitis media). The middle ear is the space found behind the ear drum. It allows for the passage of air and should be well-ventilated and dry. The eustachian tubes are the tiny canals that drain from the middle ear down the back of the throat. Once these canals become blocked with germs or mucous, moist conditions become ripe for an ear infection.
Ear infections are the most common reason children visit the doctor. They account for some 30 million visits per year and 50% of those seen will be prescribed an antibiotic.
Infants and small children suffer most often from ear infection secondary to respiratory viruses. The eustachian tubes are soft and almost horizontal in infants. Consequently, they have a hard time staying open when assaulted with mucous and phlegm associated with upper respiratory illness. Pressure builds up behind the ear drum and if left untreated can cause the ear drum to rupture. The inability of an infant to properly blow the nose to clear these small passages can often lead to frequent and or chronic infection.
Most parents have had to deal with the pain and misery of a young child crying from a ear ache at one time or another. Unfortunately, that time usually occurs about two am when you are awakened out of a sound sleep by a baby’s shrill cry of pain. Trust me, there is nothing worse than a baby screaming pitifully from ear pain. And most of us will do anything to alleviate this discomfort, including a trip to the Emergency Room and a prescription for antibiotics. The most commonly prescribed antibiotic is Amoxicillin. Some 2 billion dollars per year are spent in prescription antibiotics to treat ear infection despite the data linking the over-prescribing of these drugs and the evolution of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.
Adults can suffer from ear infections secondary to upper respiratory symptoms. Nasal passages become swollen and irritated leading to blocked eustachian tubes which result in pain, pressure and occasionally a temporary loss of hearing. Eustachian tube dysfunction (clogged ears) is a common occurrence with prolonged upper respiratory symptoms and may last up to a week or so after symptoms have resolved.
Fever, purulent drainage from the nose and or ears are common signs that infection is present and should be treated. But ear ache associated with the common cold that has none of the above symptoms will generally resolve with common household remedies. An examination of the ear with an otoscope should be done by a qualified health practitioner to know whether an infection is present of not.
There are many natural alternative methods to treat an ear ache. Many are commonly used and a few not so much. They include:
*Heat and or steam- both reduce irritation and helps alleviate symptoms associated with dry winter air. A steam shower may help loosen up mucous plugging the eustachian tubes and a moist heat compress may provide temporary relief of pain.
*Inhalation-one of personal favorites and easy to do at home with minimal equipment. Put one tablespoon of salt in the bottom of a deep bowl. Use a combination of 2-3 drops each Lavender, peppermint, eucalyptus and tea tree essential oils. Pour boiling water over oils and salt. Inhale steam for 5-10 minutes with a towel tenting your head and bowl. Cover the eyes if using salt. Try this method 2-3 times per day if possible.
*Hydrogen peroxide and or apple cider vinegar. My mother always used Hydrogen peroxide in my ears as a child and takes apple cider vinegar internally for practically everything else. She is 87 and still healthy, go figure. The easiest way is to soak a cotton ball with either liquid and use to drop a few drops into the ear canal. Allow to stay in ear for 2-3 minutes by leaning you head to one side. You might want to irrigate the ear with lukewarm distilled water after ward as well.
Hydrogen peroxide can be caustic on the ear drum, so do not use too often.
*Honey-raw, local or Manuka, swab gently around the ear canal. I would advise you not to stand outside in the Spring time with this method or you will attract bees.
*Mullein and or garlic oil- One of my go-to natural remedies. Mullein is a common weed that when distilled has extraordinary uses in the treatment of respiratory illness. Ear oils can be made by infusing the fresh, clean leaves in a high grade organic olive oil for 8 hours over low heat. Strain and bottle. I found a nice recipe for a natural children’s ear oil using the above method with:
5 cloves garlic
4 oz olive oil
20 drops Eucalyptus essential oil. Heat the garlic and olive oil over low heat, strain and add the eucalyptus before bottling.
I purchase mullein garlic ear oil at www.wholefoodsmarket.com/ or other Health Food Markets.
*Onions- probably not my preferred method but one my mother also told me of. There are several methods. a. Apply 1/2 raw onion to your ear. b. Heat 1/4 of an onion until warm not soft and tuck behind your ear. c. Apply drops of onion juice directly into your ear canal.
Irregardless of your method of treatment, there are a few common ways you can treat and or prevent the problems associated with eustachian tube dysfunction. Trust me, I’ve tried them all and they are helping.
1. When blowing your nose, close off one nostril at time and blow gently. Eustachian tube dysfunction (clogged ears) occur when the nasal passages are swollen and irritated from excessive blowing and cause the eustachian tubes to back up and become swollen as well.
2. Valsalver manuever or bearing down to clear your ear passages. Opening and closing your jaws to “Pop” your ears or chewing gum may be helpful.
3. Nasal irrigations to alleviate swollen nasal tissues should be done in a perpendicular position leaning over the sink and spraying the irrigation at an angle into the nasal passage. If you irrigate with your head back, the spray will run directly down the back of your throat. This may alleviate the sinus irritation but will not reach the eustachian tubes.
4. Antihistamines can alleviate the swelling and irritation of nasal passages.
5. Drinking plenty of fluids to maintain hydration to keep mucous thin is of utmost importance, especially when using antihistamines. Warm teas like chamomile and Holy Basil are soothing antioxidants.
Prevention is key but if you happen to fall prey to the ravages of clogged sinuses and ears, remember these easy home remedies can speed you on your way to recovery!
Bee the Change!