Childhood diseases are a given when kindergarten and public education exposes students to unknown, random viruses and bacteria spread by a multitude of persons and agents. Even though I had the obligatory small pox vaccine, the other contagious epidemics of chicken pox, mumps and both kinds of measles did not pass me by, not to mention every variation of cold virus known to man.
My siblings and I were elementary students (grade school) during the polio epidemics. My susceptibility to viruses worried my parents, especially after a classmate with severe asthma contracted the dreaded paralyzing disease. When the vaccines became available, I was first in line.
However one childhood malady incurred far more often -- earaches. With colds, bronchitis or any respiratory infection, I developed earaches, one ear or both, a source of excruciatingly, tear provoking pain. In those years there were not many forms of relief. Most home remedies were aimed at alleviating pain, not the primary cause, infection.
I was subjected to home-made blistering mustard plasters, vaporizers, Vicks nasal drops and Vaporub and Metholatum or Musterole Ointment, warmed olive oil in the ear. Eventually, the earache would be relieved, but more often it ruptured which to my young mind was an horrifying event of blood and pus.
Physicians then had a procedure of "lancing" which essentially put a small hole in the eardrum for drainage after a shot of Novocaine. Lancing did not rip and tear the eardrum like spontaneous rupture.
At one point in my childhood my parents relied on a family friend, a chiropractor, for preventive health and medical needs. I am unaware of how he became our primary source of medicinal consultations, but the entire family got adjustments on a regular basis. Since he was a rancher, I wonder if he and Daddy has some cattle or land deals.
Although my young bones sounded as if they were popping and cracking, the adjustments usually did no harm, caused no distress and may have been helpful.
Chiropractors certainly have their place in our health system. My parents, especially Dad, who did a lot of physical labor in his management of a lumber yard, really seemed to benefit. He and Mother had migraine headaches which they attested were relieved by an "adjustment."
The time spent away from their rambunctious offspring was probably the curative factor, rather than the "adjustments."
In the area where I now live, chiropractors are in heavy demand among the elderly population of aching backs, necks and extremities. Some patients go to a chiropractor after exhausting orthopedic and primary care physicians whose medical advice and treatments have failed. These patients invariably become ferocious disciples of chiropractors.
However, one earache event convinced my parents of the need to return to a primary care physician, then called a general practitioner.
I had double earaches, and was screaming with pain, all day and all night for several days. Mother made appointment with the chiropractor. Since Mother did not drive, Daddy took off work to drive us to the chiropractor's office.
After jerking my head, neck and back in every contortionist move, he ordered Mother to make hot salt packs, homemade sachet-like bags to be applied to my ears continuously until relieved. Mother whipped up some little bags out of scrap materials, filled them with rock salt and heated them in the oven. God only knows what temperature, but they were blistering hot....so hot I forgot the ears were aching; instead they were scorching.
These packs were in addition to sweet (olive) oil ear drops, mustard plasters, vaporizers, OTC nose drops and chest rubs. I'm surprised a soap enema wasn't included.
Oh yeah! there was the home-made hot, and I do mean HOT, lemonade, which was the juice of lemons in a glass of very hot water. The hot lemonade was a cure-all for almost any illness in my home. There are a number of recipes; most contain honey and some have rum or similar alcoholic concoction. In my home there was no alcohol. I don't remember the honey either but there may have been a dab.
My ears were blistered from hot salt packs, my chest was burned from mustard plaster and my throat was scalded from hot lemonade. Misery heaped on misery!!!
Nothing worked. Then one night both ears ruptured at the same time. I was screaming and yelling at the ugly, yucky disaster, thinking I was dying, even though I don't think I understood the word at that age.
My screaming and yelling was louder than usual; I could not hear myself!!!
Mother sat up with me the rest of the night and near morning I fell asleep. The pain was relieved, but that did not prove to be the end of it.
The infection spread around the ears on both sides and tonsils/sore throat aggravated discomfort. This event convinced them to return me to a general practitioner.
There were few effective drugs but I was placed on a round of sulfonamides, the only antibacterial in common use. Fortunately it worked. A compounded prescription for Aspirin, Phenacetin and Caffeine with Codeine powder was also prescribed for other aches and pains. We called that concoction "Cold Powders."
Earaches are SERIOUS; they may lead to more serious disorders such as hearing loss, mastoiditis or infection of other nearby structures surrounding the ear.
To read really scary earache tale see Remembrance of A Childhood Illness – Part One: Blowing Smoke, Remembrance of A Childhood Illness – Part Two: In Which I Almost Go to Heaven and http://anarkansasstamper.blogspot.com/2009/08/remembrance-of-childhood-illness-part_07.html by Remembrances of An Arkansas Stamper.
From then on my ear were lanced when needed. Scarring from so many eardrum ruptures is primary cause of my moderate hearing loss today.
There are many home remedies for this common childhood malady; most involve some method of heat applied to the ear. A Google Search, home earache remedies, results in 89,600 hits. My recommendation to use them only until you can see a physician. There are antibiotic, anti-inflammatory ear drops now along with a multiplicity of oral antibiotics.
Having earaches is not limited to childhood. Adults have earaches, no matter who may pooh-pooh the idea. Wind, hard sneezing, persistent or spasmodic coughing and/or sudden temperature changes cause my ears to ache.
I have been battling an annoying mild earache for about a month. I think it is a mechanical effect of some persistent allergy sneezing fits. Ringing in the ear is very annoying. I have not cleared the pressure yet. I bought a decongestant yesterday. The other ear vacillates with some pressure, too. I see my physician Tuesday.
In my adult life I have had only one other encounter with a chiropractor:
In the 1980s I had severe carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. The stinging, tingling pain became so severe, medication only offered sleep for a few hours. Only holding my hands under cold water provided temporary relief. The attacks were more prevalent at night.
This disorder is a compressed nerve that comes out of the neck area of spine, across each shoulder, down the arm crossing the elbow to the underside of the arm, traveling through a "tunnel of bones" at the wrist into palm. Compression causes burning, tingling, stinging pain from the ring finger to the thumb. The pinkie finger is excluded.
Trying to avoid surgery, I decided to give a local chiropractor a try. My insurance would pay for a series of treatments. Since this is more in the line of chiropractic practice, it seemed worth a try, but it also failed.
I had bilateral carpal tunnel release surgery. Now there is mild compression some where along the very long nerve, causing occasional discomfort. Surgery is not in the immediate forecast. Nor is a chiropractor.
[Photo: a few items I currently use to alleviate earache - the red earmuffs replace heating pads and hot salt packs. I wear them as a preventative against wind well into Spring. Hydrogen peroxide- a few drops are as first aid remedy for ear wax . removal. Olive oil and also mineral oil can be warmed and instilled in ear blocked with a cotton plug. The tiny blue dropper bottle is a popular prescription pain reliever, Auralgan. Sudafed (available generically) is a decongestant.]