You wake up one morning with a sharp pain in your ear. You make a doctor’s appointment for that afternoon, but your ear still hurts. You go on the Internet and read about a lot of different ear treatments. But are any of them safe?Why does my ear hurt? Before you do anything to help your ear pain, it’s important to go to a doctor and find out the cause first rather than self-diagnose. Ear infections are the most common cause of ear pain among children and young adults, and are usually caused by bacteria moving into the ear. However, it’s important to note that there are many causes for earaches – particularly in adults – such as referred pain from allergies, sinuses, toothaches, or even cancer. If you don’t go to the doctor for a correct diagnosis and medical care you run the risk of making yourself sicker. Untreated ear infections, for example, can spread to other parts of the body, and can cause ear damage or dangerously high fevers. If you have pain and significant hearing loss or dizziness, that’s an indication you should go straight to an ENT instead of a primary care doctor, CEENTA Otolaryngologist Timothy Kelly, MD, said. While there is a variety of ear pain remedies online, Dr. Kelly said you should avoid ones that involve putting anything in your ear because you could cause yourself further harm. “For example, if you have an ear infection and your eardrum bursts, you could potentially be putting dirty material into your middle ear,” Dr. Kelly said. One thing you should definitely not do is use ear candles, Dr. Kelly said. The American Academy of Otolaryngology has come out against them because not only are they ineffective, but they can worsen your condition and cause serious injury. How can I ease my ear pain? If you are looking to safely ease your pain or discomfort, there are three remedies you can try at home: Take over-the-counter medicine: pain medicine like ibuprofen or aspirin can help relieve the pain of an earache. However, it’s not safe to give aspirin to babies and young children, so consult a doctor before giving painkillers to your children. Use a heating pad: Heat can reduce pain if you have a muscle spasm. Make sure it is not unbearably hot, you don’t leave on it for more than 20 minutes, and you never fall asleep with it on. If your child uses a heating pad, make sure they have adult supervision. Use a cold pack: Conversely, some find that a cold pack offers more relief if the pain is from inflammation. Make sure to never apply ice or a cold pack directly to the skin, and make sure it’s not so cold it hurts. Heat or cold will work best if you determine which type of pain you have. Some people find alternating heat and cold also relieves pain. While care from one of CEENTA’s ENT doctors is the premier way to treat ear issues, these remedies are a good way to ease some of your discomfort while that care kicks in. This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your physician. To make an appointment for an ear exam, call 704-295-3000.