A seemingly insignificant part of the body, the ear, can give you a head-full of pain. At such times when nothing else seems to matter than the throbbing in your ear, some of these tips and tricks included in our feature on home remedies for earache might come in handy to get you through the night pain-free.


An earache can be due to causes in the external or middle ear. Common causes include:

External ear – impaction of wax, impacted foreign body, fungal or bacterial infection, trauma, swimming, etc. Collectively, inflammation of the external ear due to any cause is termed as otitis externa.

Middle ear – upper respiratory tract infections, teeth infections, bacterial or fungal infections, cholesteatoma, barotrauma due to pressure changes during a swim or air travel.

Symptoms of the two also differ:

Otitis externa generally has mild earache of gradual onset, ear discharge with some hearing loss, itching, redness, fever. Otitis media is generally accompanied with a strong history of an upper respiratory tract infection along with fever, nausea or vomiting, headache, moderate to severe pain, glue-like discharge from the ear, hearing loss and a constant sensation of discomfort in the ear. Younger children lack pain localisation and might have symptoms like diarrhoea, vomiting, fever, refusal of feeds, constant fiddling with the ear.

In most earaches the cause can be easily identified by patients themselves and thus treatment can be done accordingly. Earaches tend to worsen at night when one lies down and the gravitational drainage of the inflammatory fluid accumulating in the ear stops. So if an earache comes suddenly, lasts longer than a few hours and is steadily worsening, then a special ENT (Ear, Nose & Throat) doctor must be immediately consulted.

Here are a few remedies for earache that you might do well to keep in mind and prevent the pain from worsening:

1. Swallow hard – swallowing activates the muscle that opens up the Eustachian tube and will help relieving the earache.

2. Valsalva manoeuvre – Close your mouth and pinch your nostrils shut. Then blow hard till you hear a popping sound in the ears and hear your Eustachian tube “pop” open. Patients with heart diseases or ongoing upper respiratory infections must not do this. This is called as the Valsalva manoeuvre and helps relieve earaches due to blockage of the Eustachian tube.

3. Chew – chewing on some candy or gum keeps your mouth active and the Eustachian tube patent.

4. Yawn – yawning pops open the Eustachian tube and one might do well by yawning.

5. Avoid air travel– if air travel causes significant distress due to pressure changes in the cabin; take the road next time you plan to travel.

For all the not so worrisome earaches here is a list of remedies for earache that you can use to keep your dear one from howling with the earache:

1. Warmth- heat a dry hand towel on a pan and place it on the ear. You can deliver heat by using a warm water soaked towel too. Another way is to use a blow dryer at ‘warm’ setting and hold it at least 45-50cms away from the ear. The heat reduces the inflammation and thus relieves the pain.

2. Garlic – Garlic is known for its analgesic properties since ancient times. Few drops of garlic juice can be used. It may be repeated twice daily.

3. Basil – a warm paste of basil leaves and garlic can be applied to the affected ear to ease the pain too.

4. Sesame oil – a mashed clove of garlic along with a teaspoonful of sesame oil can be warmed and 4-5 drops instilled in the affected ear for quick relief.

5. Mustard oil – 2-5 drops of slightly warm mustard oil are known to soothe the pain rapidly.

6. Mango leaf juice – juice from 4-5 mango leaves can be slightly warmed and instilled in the affected ear for getting rid of an earache.

7. Olive oil – regulars swear by warm olive oil drops as an effective treatment for the pain.

8. Onions – cook an onion till it is soft. Tie it in a muslin cloth and place it on the affected ear for a few minutes. Repeat as often as required.

9. Peppermint juice – freshly squeezed juice of a 2-4 pepper mint leaves can be used as ear drops to relieve an earache.

10. Ginger – few drops of freshly squeezed ginger root can be used instead of over-the-counter ear drops to soothe the pain as ginger has strong anti-inflammatory properties.

11. Radish – few pieces of chopped radish can be added to warm mustard oil and then filtered after an hour or so. This oil can now be added to the aching ear.

If none of these 11 home remedies for earache seem to giving nothing more than minimal relief then visit your local doctor without further ado.

Dr. Rachita Narsaria