Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Winter is upon us, which means you’ll need to bundle up while going outside. When venturing out into the cold, however, don’t forget to protect one of your most-exposed and least-protected body parts – your ears.
Our ears are particularly prone to pain and discomfort from cold weather. If you haven’t noticed, one of the first areas of your body to feel the chill are your ears. Your ears are primarily cartilage (the outer part), and there is very little body fat to act as insulation and keep them warm when it’s cold outside.
Unfortunately, in cold weather, leaving your ears unprotected might add to or cause hearing loss. Even brief exposure to cold temperatures can be enough to induce hearing loss.
Read on to understand the steps you should take to reduce the risk of ear infections so that you can enjoy a healthier winter season.
How cold weather affects your ear
Although being cold will not induce an ear infection, cold weather conditions can make you more susceptible to sore throat, cold, flu, seasonal allergies, or other upper respiratory ailments. Fluid builds up beneath the eardrum which then advances to the middle ear. When your middle ear becomes clogged, air cannot pass through.
This allows bacteria such as Streptococcus pneumoniae and Haemophilus influenza to thrive in damp environment. As a result, you are more susceptible to ear infections in the winter.
The fluid build-up in the ear can remain in the middle ear for weeks or even months. It normally goes away on its own; however, antibiotics may be recommended to aid in the healing process. Your hearing should return to normal as the healing begins.
Symptoms of ear infection
The symptoms of acute ear infection are:
- Clicking sound in their ear
- Muffled conversations and noises
- Fullness in the ears
- Severe pain, especially when lying down
- Hearing loss
- Discomfort in the ear
- Tenderness to the touch
- Feeling sick
- Trouble hearing or responding to sounds
- Constant ringing or buzzing sound in the ears
Tips on ear protection in winters
While you can’t prevent an ear infection from developing, you can prevent ear pain by following the steps below:
- Spend as little time outside as possible while the weather is at its coldest.
- Whenever you’re outside, be sure to cover your ears (with a hat or a scarf) in order to protect them from harsh winds
- Periodically cleaning the ears with cotton swabs
- Dry your ears completely after taking a shower or after swimming
- Avoid smoking
- Manage allergies through medications
- Increase the intake of zinc, as zinc reduces ear infection
- Wash your hands regularly
- Avoid touching eyes and nose with bare hands
- Maintain general hygiene
Treatment for ear infections
If the ear infection is accompanied by pain, it is important to seek treatment right away. Studies show that if ear infections are left untreated they may lead to infections in other parts of the head, and also cause hearing loss.
Your ear infection treatment will be determined by your symptoms, age, and overall health. It will also be determined by the severity of the illness. Antibiotics and pain medications may be prescribed.
If antibiotics are recommended, it is critical that you take them exactly as directed and finish the entire course. This can help avoid antibiotic-resistant infections or ineffective therapy that results in the infection recurring.
Ayurvedic management of ear infections
Bael, holy basil (tulsi), turmeric extracts and neem are all useful herbs for treating ear infections and aches. These are packed with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and immunomodulatory properties, which not only help relieve ear pain but can also improve symptoms of ear infection.
While it is not always possible to avoid colds and infections completely; however taking the above precautions can reduce the risks, significantly. The fewer colds you catch this winter, the lower are your chances of getting an ear infection.
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