Sometimes an earache can present with sharp ear pain. When you feel a sharp pain in ear, what does it really mean? It can be a sharp or dull pain, or a burning sensation, or it might be a stabbing sensation. It can be worrying, particularly when it happens to children, but it is usually caused by something simple, like a minor infection that will go away without treatment.
Surprisingly, the sharp pain in ear might not be related to the ear at all, but actually in the area around the ear. The most common reason for stabbing pain in ear can be blockage between the middle ear and the back of the throat – the tiny passage called the eustachian tube. This is usually what doctors refer to when they say a child has an ear infection.
What Can Cause Sharp Pain in Ear?
In most cases, sharp pain in ear is caused by very common reasons. By far the most common reasons include those that can be easily remedied at home, such as a buildup of ear wax, a sore throat, an infection of the throat, sinus infections, and even grinding your teeth.
But there are other reasons why the ear might feel a sharp pain. Some of these include an ear infection, as mentioned earlier, or a foreign body in the ear that has been irritating the delicate skin there. Other problems might include water in the ear after swimming, an infection of the mastoid bone, ear discomfort due to pressure changes, a ruptured eardrum, or underlying medical issues, such as Menieres disease or Bell's palsy.
Please keep in mind that though most cases of sharp pain in ear are transient and will go away on their own, if the pain continues or keeps coming back, there is some cause for concern. Your doctor is the only person who can truly diagnose a problem with your ear.
When to seek medical help
When should you seek medical help for sharp pain in ear? If you or your child has a high fever or severe pain that doesn't seem to abate with medication, or if your child is sicker than usual with an ear infection, it's time to call the doctor. If new symptoms appear, including headache, swelling around the ear, weakness in the facial muscles or dizziness, call the doctor right away.
If symptoms get worse or do not improve within 24 to 48 hours, something more serious is going on, and it's time to call for a medical visit. Also, be wary if very severe pain suddenly stops, as this might be a sign that the eardrum has ruptured.
How to Relieve Sharp in Ear Pain-12 Effective Remedies
Keep it warm. A warm compress placed over the ear can help the pain, encourage swelling to go down and can simply make someone feel much better. It has the added bonus of eliminating cold, which might make an earache worse.
Massage with olive oil. Warm olive oil can help lubricate the ear and provide relief from sharp pain. Administer a few drops inside the ear and then plug it with a piece of cotton to keep the olive oil in for a while. You can also use garlic and mullein flower mixtures, of lavender oil.
Clear a stuffy nose. If your nasal passages are blocked, ear pain can become worse. Ease the pain by gently blowing your nose or turning to over the counter remedies that are proven to clear a blocked nose.
Move your ears. Wiggling the ears, yawning, or otherwise trying to make the ears “pop” can help clear the tubes, and that can bring immediate relief. This is especially true if you are suffering from pain due to environmental pressure.
Steam it out. A bowl of steaming water, enhanced with a few drops of eucalyptus oil, can help ease the pain. Lean over the bowl and put a towel over your head to hold in the steam, and then breathe deeply.
Use hydrogen peroxide. Soak a cotton ball in hydrogen peroxide and then squeeze a few drops into the ear. You might hear a bubbling noise – this is normal! It will irrigate the ear and dislodge any debris there. Gently use warm water to irrigate the ear further.
Pain relievers. Sometimes pain becomes so severe that only over the counter remedies will help. Try out acetaminophen or ibuprofen for most cases, but if the pain is truly unbearable, some prescription medications that contain codeine might be offered, as well as numbing ear drops. Talk to your doctor to choose the best remedy for you or your child.
Take vitamins. Vitamins A, C and E can help reduce the ear inflammation that often causes pain. This helps bolster the immune system to hopefully prevent sharp pain in ear in the future.
Try onion. Onion powder and water made into a thick paste and placed on the outer ear can help eliminate swelling in that area, which can in turn reduce pain and pressure.
Move your jaw. Move your jaws up and down rapidly on a regular basis. This will help keep the ear canals clear and open. Do this even when you are not suffering from pain.
Use herbal remedies. The juices of basil and peppermint, or the essential oils of each, can help relieve pain. Basil juice can be applied inside the ear, but peppermint juice should only be used on the exterior parts of the ear.
Seek medical care. An ear infection might not go away on its own. Your doctor will likely prescribe medications to help it go away. Take these exactly as described and for as long as directed, even if you feel better after a few doses.
- Never allow smoking near children. If you smoke, now is the time to stop. It can cause infections in your ears, and secondhand smoke can make those around you sick.
- Do not put an object in ears, and this can prevent outer ear infections.
- After you shower or swim, take the time to thoroughly dry your ears, inside and out.
- If you have allergies, try to avoid triggers, or be prepared with allergy remedies.
- If you have recurring ear infections, look into a nasal spray that contains steroids. This might help lessen the frequency and severity of sharp pain in ear.