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Ear Problems and Injuries, Age 12 and Older

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Home Treatment

Home treatment may be all that is needed to relieve minor or intermittent ear discomfort.

  • To ease ear pain, apply a warm washcloth. There may be some drainage from the ear when the heat melts earwax.
    • Do not use a heating pad when you are in bed. You may fall asleep and burn yourself.
    • Do not use a heating pad on a child.
  • Try an ice or cold pack to reduce swelling from a minor injury or sunburn. Apply for 15 minutes 3 or 4 times a day during the first 48 hours after the injury. The sooner you apply a cold pack, the less swelling you are likely to have. Place a cloth between the ice and your skin.
  • Oral or nasal decongestants may relieve ear pain, especially if the pain is related to fluid behind the eardrum (otitis media with effusion). Avoid products that contain antihistamines, which tend to cause more blockage, unless allergies seem to be the problem.
  • Chewing gum may help relieve pressure changes in the ear, such as when flying in an airplane.
  • Try a nonprescription earwax remover if your ear feels plugged but you do not have obvious signs of infection. Be sure to follow the label directions carefully.
  • Do not use ear candles. They have no proven benefit in the removal of earwax or the treatment of other ear problems, and they can cause serious injury.
Medicine you can buy without a prescription
Try a nonprescription medicine to help treat your fever or pain:
Safety tips
Be sure to follow these safety tips when you use a nonprescription medicine:
  • Carefully read and follow all directions on the medicine bottle and box.
  • Do not take more than the recommended dose.
  • Do not take a medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to it in the past.
  • If you have been told to avoid a medicine, call your doctor before you take it.
  • If you are or could be pregnant, do not take any medicine other than acetaminophen unless your doctor has told you to.
  • Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than age 20 unless your doctor tells you to.

Symptoms to watch for during home treatment

Call your doctor if any of the following occur during home treatment:

  • Pain develops or increases.
  • Fever or other signs of ear infection develop.
  • New or different drainage from the ear develops.
  • Other symptoms develop, such as hearing loss or vertigo.
  • Your symptoms become more severe or frequent.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: January 30, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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