How to relieve earache

Updated February 21, 2017

Earache pain can be excruciating. Pain from earaches is common in children, and the incidence of earaches becomes less common with age. Bacterial or viral infections, getting water or a foreign object in the ear, and allergies can all cause earaches. Vigorously cleaning the ear with objects such as cotton swabs can also trigger an earache. Inserting a swab too far into the ear canal can cause severe pain and lead to perforation of the eardrum. Earwax build-up can cause not only an earache, but muffled sounds too. You need to seek treatment for your earache, because failure to do so can result in severe infection or hearing loss. There are also steps you can take to relieve earache.

Visit your doctor. You will need a physical examination to determine what is causing your earache. Your doctor might refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist to further evaluate your earache. Treatment for your pain will depend on the findings of your medical evaluation.

Take your antibiotics. If your doctor determines that your earache is related to a bacterial infection, he will prescribe antibiotics. You will not receive them if the source of pain is viral in nature. Complete the entire prescription of antibiotics to ensure complete resolution of the infection. Once the infection is cleared, your earache will be relieved.

Ask about ear drops. Over-the-counter ear drops are effective and gentle in relieving earache, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Ask your doctor before using ear drops to make sure they are appropriate for your condition.

Take a decongestant. Decongestants relieve ear pressure that can cause an earache. Over-the-counter decongestants can be taken orally or nasally. Frequently, when your nose is congested you will experience ear pressure and pain. Decongestants are effective in reducing pressure and relieving earache.

Take a pain reliever. Anti-inflammatory medications work well to relieve earache. When you have an earache, your ear canal is often inflamed. Anti-inflammatory medications not only relieve pain, they relieve swelling inside the ear canal that contributes to earache.


Try a hot water bottle. When you apply a hot water bottle to your painful ear, it will soothe and relieve your earache. Apply it to the affected area and make sure it is comfortable to the touch and not too hot before you apply it.


If your earache is accompanied by extreme pain, fever or drainage, call your health care provider immediately. You might have a severe infection or damaged eardrum, which will need medical evaluation.

Things You'll Need

  • Antibiotics
  • Ear drops
  • Decongestants
  • Pain reliever
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About the Author

Meadow Milano has been a registered nurse for over 20 years, with extensive experience in emergency nursing, labor and delivery and general medicine. She has written numerous articles for nursing publications pertaining to health and medicine, and enjoys teaching in the clinical setting.