If you are prone to get ear infections during pregnancy, they are to be treated with caution. They are very annoying that may develop due to fungal infection, ear wax build-up or due to pressure created while resting. MomJunction explains the contributing factors, causes, and possible treatments and home remedies for ear infections.
What Is An Ear Infection?
An ear infection develops when certain bacteria or virus attacks the middle ear, located behind the eardrum. It results in fluid build-up and inflammation of the middle ear, causing severe pain.
Ear infections can be acute or chronic. Acute infections are painful but remain only for a short period. Chronic infections recur and may lead to permanent damage to inner and middle ears (1).
[ Read: Ear Popping During Pregnancy ]
Causes Of Ear Infections During Pregnancy:
Many factors can cause ear infections. Your doctor is the right person to determine the exact cause of your pain and infection.
Ear infections can occur when pathogens like bacteria or virus find a way into the ear. These pathogens cause common illnesses such as excess mucus, cold, allergies, sinus infections, and swollen adenoids, causing inflammation.
The inflammation leads to blockage in the Eustachian tubes (the tube that connects the middle ear and the pharynx). This blockage causes fluid build-up in the middle ear, resulting in infection. It can lead to a temporary hearing loss in some cases.
- Build-up of ear wax (2)
- Pressure created on the ear while resting or sleeping on side
If you have been experiencing chronic ear infections, you will be at a greater risk of ear infection during pregnancy.
Symptoms Of Ear Infections During Pregnancy:
There are several symptoms of an ear infection.
- Earaches, which are severe and seem like a throbbing inside the ear
- Hearing loss
- Fluid discharge from the ear
- A feeling of pressure inside the ear
- Swelling in the inner or middle ear
You cannot notice the swelling inside the ear. Only the doctor can see it using the necessary devices.
[ Read: Hearing Problems In Pregnancy ]
Infections usually clear on their own. If they are mild and occur for the first time, you may follow some home remedies. However, if the infection is chronic and do not clear, you may require medical assessment.
Home Remedies For Treating Ear Infections During Pregnancy:
The tried-and-tested home remedies could be a better option but it is always best to check with your doctor before using any of the below.
Both apple cider vinegar and white vinegar are known to be good fighters for all kinds of fungus (3). Vinegar works on the fungus and removes it during the drainage process.
- Take one teaspoon each of vinegar and water, and mix well.
- Lie down on your side such that the infected ear is on the top.
- Now soak a cotton plug into the mixture and put it over the infected ear.
- Let it be there for about 15 minutes and then remove the liquid by turning your head in the opposite direction.
- Air-dry your ear completely.
- If you do it twice a day, you will get rid of the infection within 2 or 3 days.
You can also put the mixture into the ear using a dropper. Squirm and then put some cotton in the ear. Let it remain for 15 minutes and then take away the cotton. Clean the ear using ear buds.
2. Salt Bag:
Ear ache due to cold or sinus can be relieved by placing a warm salt bag or warm water bottle on the infected ear. It works as a hot compress.
[ Read: Sinus During Pregnancy ]
To put a salt bag, take 100gm of salt in a pan and heat it. Seal the salt in a clean cotton cloth and make a pack out of it. Place the bag on the ear and dab it until the heat is lost. It also reduces the pressurized feeling on the ear.
3. Garlic Oil:
Garlic has antibacterial properties that could ward off the ear infection. Put three drops of garlic oil into the infected ear using a Q-tip. It is a safe remedy, but if the infection is severe, you may not know when the infection can pass away.
4. Olive Or Mineral Oil:
Put two drops of olive or mineral oil into the infected ear. The oil breaks down the blocked wax, which can then quickly come out of the ear. If you continue to experience pain, and the wax is too hard to soften quickly, you should visit a doctor.
5. Warm Towel:
Heat a towel or a flannel using a heater or a tumble dryer until it is warm. Place the warm towel over the infected ear. It helps in relieving the pain.
6. Steam Inhalation:
Inhalation of steam will loosen up the mucus and alleviate the ear pain and infection caused by cold, sinus, or flu.
Treatment For Ear Infections During Pregnancy:
Ear infections are usually bacterial in nature, the microbes could travel further inside your body and weaken the immune system. This aggravates other infections and health issues. The primary treatment option is to seek medical care.
In case of severe and chronic ear infection, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics after ensuring that they do not adversely affect the fetus. They would prescribe only those drugs which fall under the pregnancy category as classified by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Amoxicillin and Tylenol of category B are prescribed for pregnant women suffering from ear infections. Tylenol, also known as Acetaminophen by another trade name, is a pain killer (4) which relieves pains associated with an ear infection.
- Medicated ear drops are also commonly prescribed. The drops can be directly placed on a Q-tip and then inserted into the ear. This way, the medicine works faster and will have negligible effect on the growing fetus.
[ Read: Safe Antibiotics During Pregnancy ]
Surgery is the last and a rare option that doctors choose. If the ear infection does not go away, the doctor may have to perform surgery to drain away the fluid from the middle ear. He will stick tubes into the ear to leak out the excess fluids. The removal of fluid will help you hear better and also relieve many associated symptoms.
Surgery is also an option if your adenoids become extremely large. It is opted in severe cases, and is mostly postponed until after delivery to rule out any risks for both the mother and baby.
Can Ear Infection Harm Your Baby?
As long as the infection in the ear does not pass into the blood stream, it will not affect your unborn baby. You can take the medications to cure the infection (5).
Precautions To Keep Ear Infection Away:
- Avoid the entry of water into your ears. Water in the ears increases the microbial content as it makes the ear moist.
- Clean your ears periodically using cotton swabs to maintain hygiene.
- Do not put earplugs if the ache is due to wax build-up. The cotton plugs may push the wax further into the ear, increasing the pressure and pain in the ear.
- Ear infections should be treated immediately. Alternative therapies like homeopathy may be tried.
Swimmer’s Ear While Pregnant – What Is It All About?
Swimmer’s ear, also referred to as otitis externa, is an infection that occurs in the canal between the outer ear and eardrum. Though this infection is contracted in many ways, it is mainly caused when water enters the ears while swimming or bathing. It may also be due to an infected hair follicle in the ear or rigorous cleaning of the ear (6).
[ Read: Tips To Swim Safely During Pregnancy ]
Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear:
The symptoms of otitis externa in pregnancy include:
- A clogged or blocked feeling
- Itchy ear
- Ear pain
- Reduced hearing
- Swollen lymph nodes
This should be treated immediately as it could lead to temporary hearing loss and the infection would spread to the cranial nerve and brain. If you notice these symptoms, take immediate steps to treat the condition.
How Can You Treat Swimmer’s Ear?
- You can prepare ear drops by mixing rubbing alcohol and vinegar in equal proportions. This natural remedy will dry out the remaining water present in the ear. Do not use ear drops if you have damaged ear drums, ear tubes or already existing ear drainage.
- Applying a warm towel or hot water bottle will relieve the pain.
If above home treatments doesn’t work, you should consult your doctor. He may prescribe ear drops containing acetic or boric acid; if it is severe, oral antibiotics help combat the infection.
How Can You Prevent Swimmer’s Ear?
- Do not immerse completely in water while swimming. Try to keep the head above the water level.
- Use earplugs and a swimmer’s cap while swimming.
- Avoid scratching your ears.
- Tilt your head once you are out of the pool to drain out the remaining water.
- Dry the ears using a dry towel or a hair dryer soon after swimming.
Have you suffered any ear infections during pregnancy? What did you do to get rid of an earache and infection? Share your experiences in the below comment section.
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