How to drain ear fluid

An ear infection can sometimes occur after the onset of a cold or an upper-respiratory infection. This results in a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, the space just behind the eardrum. The Eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the throat, becomes plugged so that the fluid cannot drain on its own. This can cause temporary hearing loss, mild discomfort or even severe pain as a result of the fluid pushing against the eardrum. Physicians recommend three basic methods for draining ear fluid. In the order of invasiveness, these methods are: waiting it out, taking antibiotics and inserting tubes into the eardrum. A number of factors help determine which method should be applied, among them longevity of the build-up and severity of symptoms.

Consult your physician. Fluid in the middle ear, or otitis media with effusion (OME), is usually an infection caused by the common cold. In rare cases, however, OME can be a symptom of a tumour.

Consider using decongestants and antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor. In most cases, this clears up the infection--and by extension, clears the ear fluid build-up--within a few days. The fluid will drain out through the Eustachian tubes and into the nose.

Try a medication that contains cortisone, such as Medrol or prednisone. This is usually for people who have regular problems with their sinuses. Again, a few days of treatment will usually clear up the ear fluid build-up in the middle ear. Medrol and prednisone are prescription medications and can only be obtained as part of a treatment plan devised by your health care provider.

Go in for minor surgery from an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor. The ENT physician will place a tiny tube into the eardrum via an incision. After a few weeks, the fluid should be completely drained from the middle ear.

Consult a chiropractic doctor. A chiropractor's techniques for draining fluid from the middle ear include massaging the palate and realigning the jaw and neck.

Try a hot pack pressed against your ear as a natural remedy.

Consider waiting it out. Most people find that this works just fine and that eventually the fluid drains out through the Eustachian tube as normal, even if it takes up to nine months.


Good general health is often overlooked when attempting to treat specific health problems. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water, eating a balanced diet and getting some exercise each day. Your body might know how to drain the ear fluid all by itself. You just need to give your body the proper tools with which to work.


Some people find that nothing works to drain fluid from their middle ear, and that waiting it out is the only remedy.

Things You'll Need

  • Decongestant or antibiotics
  • Hot pack
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About the Author

Will Conley's writing has appeared in print and online since 1999. Publication venues include,, National Journal, Art New England, Pulse of the Twin Cities, Minnesota Daily and Will studied journalism at the University of Minnesota. He is working on four fiction and nonfiction books.