And Other Things You Can Live With But Could Get Along Very Well Without - The sensitive eyes and ears

Air pollution affects not only the lungs but the eyes as well. In addition to all the other hazards to which the eyes are exposed, airborne smoke, chemicals, and dust cause the eyes to burn, itch, and shed tears. Other common eye troubles are discussed below.


This pimplelike inflammation of the eyelid is caused by infection, which may be linked to the blocking of an eyelash root or an oil gland, or to general poor health. A sty can be treated at home by applying clean compresses of hot water to the area for about 15 minutes at a time every two hours. This procedure should cause the sty to open, drain, and heal. If sties are recurrent, a health checkup may be indicated.


Pinkeye , an acute form of conjunctivitis , is an inflammation of the membrane that lines the eyelid and covers the eyeball, causing the eyes to become red and the lids to swell and stick together while one is sleeping. The condition may result from bacterial or viral infection—in which case it is extremely contagious—or from allergy or chemical irritation. A physician should be consulted.

Conjunctivitis can be treated by washing the eyes with warm water, drying them with a disposable tissue to prevent the spread of infection, and applying a medicated yellow oxide of mercury ophthalmic ointment (as recommended by your physician) on the inner edges of the lids. This should be done upon rising in the morning and upon retiring at night. The eyes should then be closed until the ointment has spread. Apply compresses of hot water three or four times a day for five-minute periods.


Eyestrain—with symptoms of fatigue, tearing, redness, and a scratchy feeling in the eyelids—can be caused by a need for corrective glasses, by a disorder of the eye, or by overuse of the eyes. One of the most common causes of eyestrain, however, is improper lighting. Anyone engaged in close work, such as sewing or miniature model building, and at all times when reading, should have light come from behind and from the side so that no shadow falls on the book or object being scrutinized. The light should be strong enough for comfort—not dazzling. Efforts should be made to avoid a shiny or highly polished work surface that produces a glare. To avoid eyestrain when watching television, be sure the picture is in sharp focus; the viewer should sit at least six feet from the screen; and see that the room is not in total darkness.

Ear Infections

Ear infections related to colds, sore throats, or tonsillitis can now be kept from spreading and entering the mastoid bone by the use of sulfa drugs and other antibiotics. Any acute earache should therefore be called to a physician's attention promptly. Aspirin, in adults, can be taken for temporary relief from pain; holding a heating pad or a hotwater bottle to the affected side of the face may also be helpful until proper medication can be prescribed.


An excessive accumulation of earwax can cause pain and interfere with hearing. A small wad of cotton should be used to gently clean the ear canal, and sharp objects such as hairpins and matchsticks should never be used.

Hardened earwax can be softened by a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Sometimes a doctor may have to flush out earwax that is deeply imbedded.

Ear Blockage

A stopped-up feeling in the ear can be caused by a cold, and also by the change in air pressure experienced when a plane makes a rapid descent. The obstruction of the eustachian tube can usually be opened by swallowing hard or yawning.

Ringing in the Ear

The general word for a large variety of noises in the ear is tinnitus . Tinnitus can be ringing, buzzing, or other low level continual sounds. Everyone experiences some form of ear ringing on occasion, such as after listening to loud music or noise. However, chronic noise is symptomatic of other problems. Tinnitus can be caused by tension in the jaw muscle from stress, grinding of the teeth, or structural problems with the jaw. It can also be caused by high blood pressure, infections, or as a reaction to chemicals, such as nicotine. If you experience continual or chronic ringing, you should discuss it with your physician.

Tinnitus is treated by avoiding excessive noise, masking irritating ear noises with music or amplified sounds from a hearing aid or cleaning ear wax out of ears. A doctor's opinion should also be sought to determine if the ringing is caused by an inner ear infection. Avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol also helps.

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