It’s All in Your Head: Home Treatments
Frequently when I am seeing patients in my office or just talking to friends I am asked about different home remedies or over-the-counter treatments for common problems affecting ears, nose and sinuses, as well as throats. I have previously written about over-the-counter medications that I recommend. Here are some hints that I have found to work.
Regarding ears, there are multiple liquids or ointments or creams that can be applied in the ear canals. After swimming or bathing, if water is trapped in the ear either plain rubbing alcohol (or drinkable alcohol such as vodka) can be poured, dropped or sprayed into the ear and allowed to evaporate. This will usually take the water with it. A good mixture to use in kids after swimming is half alcohol and half white vinegar. For dry itchy ears either olive oil or liquid coconut oil applied with a dropper or on a Q-tip can be helpful, as can over the counter hydrocortisone cream. I know several ENT doctors have said to avoid using Q-tips. They are in my opinion okay to use for removal of excess water or applying medication. They generally do not do much good for earwax and usually just push it in farther.
For nasal congestion or drainage it is hard to beat salt water nasal spray. Several brands are available and types containing xylitol (Xlear) have been helpful as well as pressurized salt water in a can (Simply Saline). Decongestant nasal sprays such as Afrin or Sinex that contain a medication called oxymetazoline are very good for immediate relief in the early phases of cold or allergy. This type of spray can be used safely twice a day for up to 4 days in a row without the nasal passages becoming addicted or dependent on it. Afrin type spray is also good for sudden onset of stopped up ears that will not equalize. Because of Covid–19 and the spread of the virus, several doctors have suggested using short courses of saline nasal spray containing Betadine type surgical cleansing liquid (povidone iodine solution). This type of iodine is available over-the-counter where bandages and first aid supplies are sold. One half teaspoon can be safely added to a squeeze bottle of saline nasal spray, or 3/4 tsp. to a NeilMed type nasal wash bottle (with the salt packet). This can be done after recent exposure to the virus for up to 5 days. It is not recommended for long-term use because the inside of your nose should not be sterile as it should contain multiple good bacteria.
A hint that I found helpful is the use of a broad-spectrum probiotic capsule dissolved in about 1/4 cup of warm water. This is especially good for yeast infections in the mouth or tongue (commonly noticed thrush). It can be used as a mouthwash/gargle then swallow. Or the probiotic and water solution can be brushed directly on the tongue with a soft toothbrush. For mouth ulcers, oil of oregano either full-strength or diluted as a mouthwash will help eliminate the infection and promote healing – although it is very strong and pungent.
Hopefully these hints will be helpful and provide better health to you and your family.