Otalgia or earache is a persistent kind of pain in the ear that is caused by an infection in the outer or middle ear. Pain can also arise as a result of infection in the area surrounding the ear such as dental problems or jaw infections, the throat or spinal area. This is called referred pain. So ear pain can be caused by any number of things so symptoms must be referred promptly to an ear specialist for a medical opinion.
Ear pain can be caused by pressure and fluid building up behind the ear drum in the middle ear. Colds or allergies can cause inflammations and accumulated secretions that block the Eustachian tube that connects the middle ear to the nasal passages. So there will be pain, stuffiness, loss of hearing, and ear infection. The symptoms will be fever, and ear pain and irritability and crying in children. Ear pain from infection is most likely in children than in adults. Also, when children have ear pain it could be because of water or soap or shampoo in their ears after a bath or a swim; the ear canal having been irritated by being cleaned with cotton swabs; an object that may have been inserted into their ears that cannot be easily viewed; or severe accumulation of ear wax.
For adults earache usually is referred pain from pain in the sinuses, teeth, jaw, tongue, salivary glands, or throat. Some people have continued ear pain after flying on an aircraft because of the pressure changes in the cabin or the high altitudes.
Pain can be sharp, dull, or burning. To treat it on the spot, pain relieving medicines such as ibuprofen than can be easily bought over the counter can be given. A cold compress applied to the outer ear may soothe. Some ear drops are gentle on the ears and give relief. A doctor may have to prescribe drugs if the pain persists and is severe. Chewing gum helps relieve the pain and this is especially so in an aircraft descent when swallowing or sucking on candy helps.
You must call the doctor if a child’s ear pain does not improve within two days, is severe, and is accompanied by high fever. If the pain suddenly stops you must take care as it could indicate a ruptured eardrum. If the pain is accompanied by dizziness and swelling around the ear and jaw area or the facial muscles twitch then these are symptoms that need to be attended to immediately.
The doctor may do a complete physical examination and have the patient undergo a blood culture or culture of the ear fluid. It is best to take all the antibiotics prescribed. To prevent ear pain stop smoking around children as this is causes ear infection; keep an eye out for allergies and prevent their onset; and take precautions against colds.
Take good care to prevent ear infections but once it sets in it should be medically treated immediately to avert ruptured eardrums or hearing loss.