Which Home Treatments Help With Ear Pain?

Chances are you think of ear infections as something only kids get. It's true that ear infections are less common in grown children and adults, but they can still happen.

Thankfully, ear infections often go away on their own and don’t require medication. Still, it’s helpful to know how you can treat ear pain at home.

Things You Can Try

While research that says home remedies work for ear pain is scarce, most doctors agree these treatments are safe to try at home. Still, before you do, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor.

Some options include:

A cool or warm compress. Soak a washcloth in either cool or warm water, wring it out, and then put it over the ear that's bothering you. Try both temperatures to see if one helps you more than the other.

Olive oil drops. While there’s no scientific evidence that proves this treatment works, the American Academy of Pediatrics says it could be moderately effective on ear pain. Put a few drops of warm olive oil in the ear that's giving you trouble, like you would use ear drops.

Try a pain reliever. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen can often relieve the pain of an earache. Ask your doctor which is right for you.

Chew gum. If you’re on an airplane or driving at high altitudes and your ear pain is from the change in air pressure, chew some gum. It can help lower that pressure and ease your symptoms.

Sleep upright. While it may sound strange, resting or sleeping sitting up rather than lying down can encourage fluid in your ear to drain. This could ease pressure and pain in your middle ear. Prop yourself up in bed with a stack of pillows, or sleep in an armchair that’s a bit reclined.

When to Call a Doctor

It’s important to know when your discomfort might be a sign of something more serious.

Call your doctor if:

  • You notice fluid (such as pus or blood) oozing out of your ear
  • You have a high fever, headache, or are dizzy
  • You believe an object is stuck in your ear
  • You see swelling behind your ear, especially if that side of your face feels weak or you can’t move the muscles there
  • You’ve had severe ear pain and it suddenly stops (which could mean a ruptured eardrum)
  • Your symptoms don’t get better (or get worse) in 24 to 48 hours
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 21, 2017

Sources

Mayo Clinic: “Ear Infection (Middle Ear).”

National Institutes of Health: “Quick Statistics About Hearing.”

American Academy of Pediatrics: “The Diagnosis and Management of Acute Otitis Media,” " Complementary, Holistic, and Integrative Medicine: Therapies for Acute Otitis Media."

Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine: “Efficacy of naturopathic extracts in the management of ear pain associated with acute otitis media.”

AARP Health: "Earache."

Health Guidance: "How to Treat an Earache Using Home Remedies."

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