Fluid in Ear: Is it Serious? Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Fluid in ear is a common condition that can cause pain, dizziness, and make it difficult for you to participate in daily activities.

The good news is that there are many ways you can safely remove fluid from your ear and prevent infection.

In most cases, fluid in the ear will go away on its own.

But if you have troubles coping with the discomfort for few days, we will also talk some remedies you can try.

With that in mind, let’s discuss the common causes first 1.

Causes of fluid in the ear

Swimmer’s Ear

This condition is medically known as “otitis externa”.

But the common term is swimmer’s ear, because it is more common in people swimming regularly in the pool.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that swimmer’s ear is caused by bacteria found in dirt and water 2 3.

Due to pools containing this bacteria, you are at higher risk.

When the water sits in the ear canal for too long, it can cause infection in the ear.

Swimmer’s ear is infection of the ear and the ear canal.

Signs and symptoms include pain, swelling, itching, redness, and pus draining from the ear.

A medical expert might prescribe antibiotics and ear drops.

Serious otitis media

Another inflammation, serious otitis media is inflammation of the middle ear 4.

The location of the middle ear is just behind the eardrum.

The space behind the eardrum is filled with air, which essentially allows transmission of sound waves to pass through.

However, when a person suffers from cold or another upper respiratory infection, this empty and hollow space is filled with fluid.

The fluid will drain through the Eustachian tube once the cold and respiratory infection passes.

Antibiotics and decongestants will help to clear the infection and allow the fluid in the middle ear to drain 5.

Labyrinthitis

This infection and inflammation occur in the inner ear (the labyrinth).

It can be caused by fluid from the middle ear, allergies, and upper respiratory infections.

Unlike other ear infections, a labyrinthitis will result in vertigo, loss of balance, hearing loss, nausea, and vomiting 6.

You might say the symptoms are more severe than other ear infections 7.

The good news is the infection can come and go on its own.

However, if you want to speed up the healing process, you can turn to corticosteroids and antihistamines.

Sudden movements, bright lights, and reading may worsen the symptoms.

Symptoms of fluid in ear

With all the talk about the causes, we must turn our head now towards the symptoms of ear infections.

An ear infection can be both bacterial and viral infection affecting the middle ear, or any other part of the ear.

Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults 8.

Treatment for ear infections usually focuses on managing the pain and monitoring the problem, since ear infections can clear up on their own in most cases.

Symptoms in children include the following:

  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Ear pain when lying down
  • Crying more than usual
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever 100F (38 C) or higher
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Difficulty hearing and responding to sounds
  • Acting more irritable than usual

Adults, on the other hand, experience the following symptoms:

  • Ear pain
  • Diminished hearing
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

Should you see a doctor?

As we mentioned a number of times, in most cases, ear infections go away on their own 9.

However, there are certain cases when you need to visit a physician to get an expert opinion.

That is when the ear pain is severe, the symptoms last for more than a day without pause, the symptoms occur in a child less than 6 months of age, and you observe a discharge of fluid pus, or bloody discharge from the ear.

Risk factors

Anyone can develop an ear infection, but some of us are more prone to it than others.

The risk factors for an ear infection include:

  • Children between 6 months and 2 years old
  • Group child care
  • Babies drinking from a bottle while lying down
  • Seasonal factors, as infections are more common during fall and winter, specifically during flu season
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke and high levels of air pollution

How to flush away fluid in ear

Flush away fluid from earAn acute ear infection is never “cute”.

As we saw it by now an ear infection is often followed by pain, headache, fever, discharge, and other symptoms that can make your everyday tasks challenging.

That being said, a physician will prescribe you some ear drops and antibiotics 10.

If you like to try some natural remedies, you have that option as well. And for most people, the natural way is always better than the traditional medicine way.

Here are some ways how to get fluid out of ear naturally.

Steaming

A home steam treatment is usually the simplest and easiest way to get rid of fluid in your ear.

All you need is a bowl of warm water and a warm towel.

A warm steam treatment will open the Eustachian tube, the one that is blocking fluid.

Once you open the tube, fluid can drain easily.

For this treatment, fill a large bowl with boiling water.

Then, cover your head with a towel, and hold your ear over the steam bath.

If you like to take things to the next level, add some chamomile or tea tree, anti-inflammatory herbs that will help.

Stay a maximum of 10 minutes under the towel, and then sit down.

In some cases, a steam from a shower will also help to loosen the fluid and get it out of your ear.

Gravity drain

The cheapest way to get rid of fluid in ear is to let gravity do its work.

This is a safe ear draining procedure that you can perform at home.

It will provide temporary relief.

All you have to do is tilt your head, or lie down to the side.

Make sure the affected ear faces down.

That will encourage fluid to drain out.

Put a towel or cloth underneath, so that the fluid will come out on it.

Bear in mind, this treatment might not get all of the fluids out.

In some cases, you still might need to visit a physician for an ear draining treatment.

Blow-drying

Some people swear by the blow-dryer technique, some say it is not safe.

It is up to you to decide whether you want to try it or not.

Make sure to run the hair dryer on the lowest heat and blow setting available.

Hold the mouth of the device a foot away from your ear.

The idea behind the technique is that the warm and dry air will turn the water to steam and pull it out of your ear.

Just be careful not to do it for too long, otherwise you might burn your ear on the side of your face.

While this technique is controversial, if you believe it in, you can try it and live with the results.

Chew or Yawn

As you can see, there are a number of home remedies for fluid in ear that require absolutely no money.

Chew on anything you can, be it a gum or food.

You can also try yawning.

Both techniques will encourage the inner ear tube to open, as chewing stretches the Eustachian tubes.

After chewing or yawning for few minutes, tilt your affected ear down.

This will encourage the fluid to flow outward.

You can also pinch your nose while chewing and yawning.

Depending on the cause of the fluid, you might need to chew or yawn for a longer period of time to see results.

DIY Ear Drops

As mentioned previously, a physician will most likely prescribe some ear drops for your fluid and ear infection.

But you can also make your own at home.

You need 1 part of rubbing alcohol and 1 part of white vinegar.

Mix them together, and then use a sterilized eye dripper to carefully put 3 to 4 drops into the affected ear.

The solution works as an antibacterial agent, and will break down infection and ear wax, allowing fluid to come out naturally.

Humidifier

If the fluid in ears is caused by infection or sinuses, you can treat it by placing a humidifier in your bedroom.

Or on a side table that is close to your affected ear.

The humidifier will encourage steam production and ease fluid buildup.

This is basically a more advanced use of the steam treatment.

Humidifiers are extremely popular during the winter months, as the air in the house can become extremely dry.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072565/
  2. https://www.centerwatch.com/clinical-trials/listings/condition/324/otitis-externa-swimmers-ear/
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/swimmers/rwi.html
  4. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1606043
  5. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0912254
  6. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/856215-overview
  7. http://american-hearing.org/disorders/vestibular-neuritis-and-labyrinthitis/
  8. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/ear-infections-children
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/ear-infection.html
  10. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/downloads/Preventing-and-Treating-Ear-Infections-H.pdf

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