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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  

Blowin’ SmokePublished 9/5/2007

When I was a little girl and got sick, I made frequent trips to the doctor. I had one of the best pediatric doctors around.

His name was Dr. Kenneth Bohan and his office was located across the street from St. Anthony’s hospital. I remember taking the long ride in our 1956 Plymouth.

I didn’t mind a visit to Dr. Bohan’s office. He was very friendly. He stood tall and his dark hair was always combed over to the side. He wore dark, wide-rimmed glasses and always had a smile on his face. He made me feel very comfortable.

Besides, every time I would leave the office, the nice nurse would give me two or three penny candy sticks, along with some "strawberry or chocolate" medicine. Somehow, the trip to the doctor was worth it, even if I got a shot at the end! Or shall I say, "in the end?"

I had a lot of earaches in my younger years and they continued until I was in my teens. I remember spending night after night crying myself to sleep. The cure for the earache of the sixties was to blow smoke from a pipe into the ear to help the pain.

I remember my dad coming into my bedroom, sitting on the edge of the bed, putting his pipe in his mouth, taking a few puffs and then, blowing smoke into my ear. The warmth of the smoke would ease the pain. I would eventually fall asleep.

If you ask anyone of the uh, older generation, grandpa’s trick of blowing smoke from his pipe into painful ears eased the pain, yet it wasn't the smoke that relieved the pain - it was the warmth of the smoke.

Times have changed. An earache is a very common medical problem for both children and adults. The two most common conditions that cause earaches are infection of the outer ear (otitis externa) and infection of the middle ear (otitis media).

Otitis externa is a skin infection of the outer ear or ear canal. Most cases are treated with eardrops. These drops contain antibiotic to fight the infection. Sometimes a wick is placed in the canal if swelling is severe.

In some cases the drainage in the ear builds up, and the infection won't clear until it is removed. An otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist), using special equipment, usually will remove this build-up.

Otitis media is an infection of the middle ear and eardrum, this is very common in infants and children aged 6 months to 2 years, but can also affect older children and adults. Most cases are treated with an oral antibiotic.

In some cases, a decongestant medication is helpful. Pain medication may be needed for the first few days.

So, if you are one of those baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) and find yourself with an earache, forget the blowin’ smoke theory from your past and go see your doctor. Both of you will be glad you did.

Damage to my ears from all the pipe smoke? My husband swears that he sees puffs of smoke coming out of my ears every now and then when I get riled. I think he’s right!

Vickie Jenkins is a medical assistant for Dr. Michael Crawford. She is an author/publisher of a children’s book, The Mulberry Gang, and has had numerous articles published. She can be contacted through her website at

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