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Ear emergencies


Symptoms:
Do Not:
  • DO NOT block any drainage coming from the ear.
  • DO NOT try to clean or wash the inside of the ear canal.
  • DO NOT put any liquid into the ear.
  • DO NOT attempt to remove the object by probing with a cotton swab, a pin, or any other tool. To do so will risk pushing the object farther into the ear and damaging the middle ear.
  • DO NOT reach inside the ear canal with tweezers.
When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Some symptoms may mean you have had serious injury to your ear. See a doctor if you have:

  • Pain in the ear
  • Ringing sounds
  • Dizziness (vertigo)
  • Hearing loss
  • Drainage or blood from the ear
  • Recent blow to your ear or head
Prevention:
  • Never put anything in the ear canal without first talking to a health care provider.
  • Never hit the head to try to correct an ear problem.
  • Teach children not to put things in their ears.
  • Avoid cleaning the ear canals altogether.
  • After an ear injury, avoid nose blowing and getting water in the injured ear.
  • Treat ear infections right away.

If you tend to feel pain and pressure in your ears when flying:

  • Drink a lot of fluid before and during the flight.
  • Avoid the use of alcohol, caffeine, or tobacco on the day of the flight.
  • Chew gum, suck on hard candy, or yawn during take-off and landing.
  • Talk to your doctor about taking a decongestant or using a nasal spray before you fly.
References:

Thomas SH, Goodloe JM. Foreign bodies. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 57.

Byyny RL, Shockley LW. Scuba diving and dysbarism. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 143.


Review Date: 8/4/2014
Reviewed By: Ashutosh Kacker, MD, BS, Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology, Weill Cornell Medical College, and Attending Otolaryngologist, New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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