How to Cure an Earache

Three Parts:Using Verified Medical AdviceTrying Unverified Home RemediesPreventing Earaches

It has been estimated that as many as 70 percent of children have at least one ear infection by the age of three,[1] and many adults also suffer from ear infections and earache. While serious earaches require medical attention as they can lead to permanent hearing loss, minor problems can often be treated at home using medical advice or home remedies that have been used for centuries. Do not use home remedies as a substitute for medical advice; if you are unsure about any advice or procedure, consult a medical practitioner.

Part 1
Using Verified Medical Advice

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    Use heat to sooth the earache. Heat can bring quick pain relief.
    • Apply a warm compress over the painful ear.[2] You can make a warm compress from a washcloth dipped in hot water and wrung out, or from a hot water bottle or heat pack purchased at a pharmacy. Do not make it hot enough to scald the skin. You can keep the compress on your ear as long as you like. You can also try icing it first. Put a bag of ice on the area for 15 minutes. Then place a warm compress on for another 15 minutes. Repeat two to three times.
    • Hold a blow dryer an arm's length from your ear and blow air set to the "warm" or "low" setting into the ear. Do not use the hot or high setting.
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    Administer over-the-counter pain medications. Good choices include ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Follow all instruction on analgesic packaging.
    • Note that dosing for children is usually dependent on weight. Do not give children under the age of 18 aspirin. Aspirin in children is linked to the rare but devastating Reye's Syndrome, which causes brain and liver damage.[3]
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    See a doctor. If symptoms persist for more than 5 days for adults or more than 2 for children, the earache is in a child is under 8 weeks old, the neck becomes stiff, or if a fever develops, see a doctor immediately. While earaches are common, if left untreated they can become a very serious infection that can lead to other complications.
    • If the cause of the earache is bacterial, a doctor can prescribe a course of antibiotics to stem the infection and analgesics to mitigate the pain.
    • An untreated ear infection can result in permanent hearing loss, so it's important that you seek treatment if symptoms worsen or persist.

Part 2
Trying Unverified Home Remedies

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    Clear the nose. Earaches are often caused by a buildup of fluid caught in the Eustachian tube, a tiny tube that connects the ear, nose, and throat. By clearing the nose, you can relieve pressure on the eardrum.[4]
    • Try gently squirting a little bit of salt water in the child's nostril, followed by suctioning.[5]
    • You can use a bulb suction device or a Nose Frida to get the nasal secretions flowing.
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    Wiggle the ear gently. Earaches can cause pressure in the Eustachian tubes, which can be relieved by gently popping (much like air pressure on air planes). This process can allow fluids trapped in the canal to drain.[6]
    • Hold the outer ear with your thumb and forefinger close to the head, and gently tug and rotate the ear as much as possible without causing discomfort. You can also try inducing yawning by faking a yawn, which can have a similar effect of popping the Eustachian tubes.
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    Inhale soothing steam. Hot steam can help the fluids in the Eustachian tubes to drain (literally by causing your nose to run), which relieves pressure in the inner ear. Adding certain medications or scents to the steam can add an additional benefit of a gentle anesthetic for the ear pain.
    • Prepare a steam inhalation by adding several drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a teaspoon of Vicks or similar vapor rub to nearly boiling water in a bowl.
    • Place a towel over your head and inhale the steam through the nose three times a day until pain subsides. This will help to open the Eustachian tubes, easing pressure and help to drain the fluids from the ear.[7]
    • Do not place a small child's head under a towel over a very hot bowl of water, as the child may get burned or even drown in the water. Instead, apply a small amount of Vicks BabyRub (which is specially formulated for small babies and children) to the baby's chest or back, and then either stand in a very warm shower holding the baby, or let the baby play in a bathroom while a hot shower runs. The steam from the shower will mix with the vapors of the medication and create a soothing effect.
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    Try olive oil. To alleviate pain, place a few drops of warm olive oil in the ear.[8] The oil works by soothing the irritated inner ear.
    • The bottle can be placed in a small glass of warm water for a few minutes to get it warm. Drop the oil directly into the ear, then plug the ear loosely with a cotton ball.
    • If using this method on a baby, try it when the baby is napping and you can prop him on his side in order to keep the oil in place. You should not put cotton balls in a small baby's ear.
    • Be aware that there is no peer-reviewed evidence suggesting that this does anything aside from placebo effect.
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    Use garlic and mullein flower oil. Garlic has been shown to have antibiotic properties, and is thought to be a natural anesthetic.
    • You can find garlic and mullein flower oil on Amazon or from your local health food store.
    • Warm the oil (make sure its not hot by dropping a bit on your own wrist), then use a dropper to place a few drops of oil in the ear twice a day.
    • Again, this method is not supported by any peer-reviewed evidence.
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    Try lavender oil. Although you should not put lavender oil in the ear directly, you can massage it on the outside of the ear, which is thought to improve circulation and lead to better inner-ear drainage. Plus, the smell itself can be soothing.[9]
    • Mix a few drops of lavender oil into a few drops of a carrier oil (like fractionated coconut oil or olive oil), then gently massage it to the outside of the ear as needed throughout the day.
    • Other essential oils that are thought to benefit pain and circulation include eucalyptus, rosemary, oregano, chamomile, tea tree, and thyme.[10]
    • This method is supported only by anecdotal evidence. There are no studies to support the health benefit of essential oils.

Part 3
Preventing Earaches

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    Avoid the cold virus. One of the most common causes of earache is the common cold, and while there is no cure for the cold virus, you can take precautionary steps to avoid contracting it in the first place.[11]
    • Wash your hands regularly, especially after you've been in public places and before eating. If you don't have access to a sink, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The cold virus is notoriously resilient and can live for hours on surfaces, so even if you don't see anyone who appears sick, its possible to contract a cold simply from going to the library or the grocery store.[12]
    • Exercise regularly. People who exercise regularly have healthier immune responses, so their bodies are able to better fight off infection and resist the cold virus.[13]
    • Eat a vitamin-rich, balanced diet. Eat nutrient-dense, whole foods, focusing on lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits. The phytochemicals in plants like peppers, oranges, and dark leafy greens actually help your body absorb vitamins, so it's best to stick to natural foods for your immune-supporting vitamins.[14]
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    Get tested for allergies. Allergic reactions can cause itching in the ear and earache. These can range from environmental to food-based allergies.
    • Call your doctor to schedule allergy testing, which can include a blood test or a skin-prick test. The test will give you information on what kind of allergens might be responsible for your ear irritation, such as ragweed, pets, or dairy.
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    Prevent ear infections in babies. Ear infections in babies are common but can be reduced or prevented using particular feeding strategies.
    • Vaccinate your child. One of the common infectious agents for ear infections is part of the routine vaccine series.
    • Try to breastfeed for at least the first 12 months of your baby's life. Breastmilk contains antibodies that have been shown to reduce ear infections, so breastfed babies tend to get earaches less often than formula-fed babies.[15]
    • If you bottle feed, be sure to hold the baby at a 45 degree angle, and never feed the baby flat on his or her back or laying in his or her crib. Doing so can cause liquid to pool in the inner ear, resulting in an earache. Try to wean the baby from the bottle to a sippy cup between ages 9 and 12 months in order to reduce the rate of ear infections associated with bottles.[16]


  • Putting anything in your ear can have serious side effects such as a worsening of the infection or loss of hearing (temporary or even permanent).
  • Put cotton in the ear canal when showering or bathing.
  • When using a steam inhalation, put the bowl into the sink to prevent accidentally tipping the bowl over and burning yourself.
  • Don't pour fluid into an ear if you know or suspect you have eardrum perforations.
  • Never insert a cotton swab into the inner ear as this can puncture the eardrum.
  • Consider avoiding the most common allergenic foods: wheat, dairy products, corn, oranges, peanut butter, and all simple carbohydrates, including sugar, fruits, and fruit juices.

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Categories: Ear Care