How are earaches and ear pain treated?
Swimmer's ear treatment (otitis externa)
- Most cases are treated with prescription eardrops for 7-10 days.
- These drops contain an antibiotic to fight the infection, and often a steroid to reduce inflammation swelling.
- The drops are placed in the affected ear with the individual laying on their side. After the drops are placed, the patient should remain in this position for about 5 minutes to prevent the drops from running out of the ear.
- If the ear canal is very swollen, a wick or small piece of gauze material may be placed into the canal to allow the ear drops to reach the appropriate location.
- Occasionally, the health-care professional may prescribe an oral antibiotic as well as the eardrops. Pain medication either OTC or prescription is often needed for a few days until the infection is under control.
- The ear canal should be kept dry during treatment. An earplug or small cotton ball coated with Vaseline can be used during bathing to keep water out.
- In some cases the drainage in the ear builds up, and the infection won't clear until it is removed. Referral to an otolaryngologist (an ear, nose, and throat specialist) may be required.
Middle ear infection treatment (otitis media)
- There are different ways of approaching the treatment of otitis media. Depending upon the situation, the health-care professional may prescribe antibiotics immediately. This is most often used for adults who develop otitis media.
- Alternatively, in children, observation and comfort care may be appropriate, and if symptoms resolve in 2-3 days, no antibiotics may be necessary. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends this two-step approach depending upon the age of the child, the certainty of the diagnosis, the severity of illness, and the ability of the child and family to have access to follow-up care.
- The decision about which course of treatment to use will depend upon the discussion between parent and health-care professional. A prescription for antibiotics may be provided to the parents or caregiver with the instructions not to fill the prescription for 2 to 3 days, and then only fill and use the prescription only if the symptoms persist.
- Symptomatic treatment may include pain control with over-the-counter or prescription pain medications, drinking plenty of fluids, and humidifying the air.
Bullous myringitis treatment
- Treatment for infections of the eardrum may include oral antibiotics, antibiotic ear drops, and pain medications.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 8/23/2016
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