How is an ear infection treated?

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Ear infections may be treated conservatively with oral over the counter pain medication, or they may require oral antibiotics. Treatment of ear infections depends on age and the severity of infection.

RealAge Admin
Administration Specialist

If an infection is present, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. Amoxicillin is the antibiotic most commonly used for ear infections. It is very important to take the entire antibiotic prescribed and to take it as scheduled. Antibiotic therapy is generally prescribed for a week to ten days, depending on the antibiotic prescribed.

Medication may also be given to help open the eustachian tube. Nose drops, decongestants and antihistamines may be used for this purpose with the approval of a physician. The doctor will probably want to re-examine the ears after treatment to be sure the infection is gone. The doctor will also want to know if there isn't improvement after a few days on an antibiotic. A change in prescription might be recommended if the first one isn't working.

If the problem is a buildup in earwax, the doctor will drain the wax. This may be done using prescription eardrops that will dissolve the wax, so it can drain. Attempts to remove this blockage on your own may push it further into the canal and worsen the problem.

Clark Jensen
Administration Specialist
To help treat ear infections:
  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Take any medicine your doctor prescribes. Most of the time, treating the symptoms is all you need to do. The infection will often go away without medicine. If your doctor prescribes an antibiotic, follow the directions. Take the medicine every day until it's all gone. Do this even if your ear doesn't hurt anymore.
  • Use medicine or eardrops to ease pain. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist about the best medicine for you.
  • Use acetaminophen (like Tylenol) or ibuprofen (like Advil). Do not give aspirin to a child or teen -- it increases risk for a serious problem called Reye's syndrome.
  • Use eardrops prescribed by your doctor. Or, you can use drops of warm (not hot) mineral oil. Do not use drops if your child has had surgery to put in ear tubes.
Call or go to the doctor or clinic for:
  • Signs that the eardrum has burst (fluid or blood draining from the ear)
  • Pain that doesn't go away
  • High fever or long-lasting fever

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.