How to Get Rid of an Ear Infection

A young female holds a red hot water bottle against her ear while sitting on a sofa wrapped in a blanket.

Earaches can be unbearably painful, but they don’t always require antibiotics. In fact, more than 80% of ear infections get better on their own or with home care within 2-3 days. In most cases, using an over-the-counter pain relief medication is how to get rid of an ear infection fast.

How to recognize the signs and symptoms of an ear infection

While the symptoms of ear infections are typically the same, the signs can be different for babies, toddlers, and those who are unable to verbally communicate. Here are common signs and symptoms of an ear infection:

Babies and toddlers

  • Pulling or tugging on the ear
  • Increased irritability
  • Increased difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fever
  • Clear, yellow, or brown discharge coming from the ear
  • Loss of balance
  • Difficulty earing or responding to auditory cues

Children and adults

  • Pain inside the ear
  • Pressure or feeling of fullness inside the ear
  • Itching and irritation around the ear
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Lack of energy
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Clear, yellow, or brown discharge coming from the ear

Learn how to get rid of an ear infection

If you or your child is struggling with the pain and discomfort of an ear infection, here are a few ways you can help alleviate symptoms and start feeling better:

  • Cool or warm compresses
    Both warm and cool compresses can help alleviate the pain of an ear infection. Hold either a warm or cool compress (whichever one feels better) against the affected ear for 10-15 minutes at a time, or you can also try alternating between warm and cool compresses.
  • Neck exercises
    Any neck exercises that rotate the neck can help relieve earache pressure in the ear canal. Here is how you can do it:
    • Sit or stand up straight
    • Rotate your head to the right until it is parallel with your shoulder. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
    • Repeat this exercise on the left side.
    • Raise your shoulders high like you’re trying to reach your earlobes. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
    • Repeat these exercises as needed throughout the day.
  • Elevated sleep position
    Lying flat on the bed can sometimes worsen the feeling of pressure and pain in the infected eardrum. For infants and small children who are not yet using pillows, try elevating the mattress with a towel to help them sleep. This position will help alleviate some of the pressure associated with an ear infection and encourage mucus and other fluids to drain from the middle ear and down the throat. For adults and older children who can sleep with a pillow, try placing an additional pillow under the head to alleviate some pressure. Adults and older children should also sleep on the unaffected side.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen can help relieve pain and fevers that are caused by ear infections. You may also consider an over-the-counter decongestant to help reduce the swelling of the mucus membranes, which opens the passages leading to the middle ear and helps relieve symptoms. Afrin nasal spray and Sudafed are common decongestants for ear infections. For children under 2 years of age, check with your doctor first.
  • Antibiotics
    Antibiotics can help clear the ear infection if it is caused by bacteria. If you or your child are prescribed antibiotics, be sure to finish the entire dose of the medication, even if symptoms disappear. Not finishing the prescribed antibiotics can leave some bacteria alive and lead to antibiotic resistance. The most common antibiotics for ear infections include amoxicillin, clarithromycin, and Zithromax.

Learn how to prevent an ear infection

Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of infection, especially in the colder months when they’re more common:

  • Wash your hands
    Practice cold prevention, like frequent hand washing, to reduce your risk of ear infections. Wash your hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Also, remember to wash well before touching your face or eating.
  • Try nasal saline irrigation
    Rinse your nose to keep your nasal passages free and clear. Although several methods of nasal irrigation exist, one of the most popular is the Neti pot (a ceramic or plastic pot that looks like a teapot). To use, mix warm, sterile water with pure salt into the pot and pour the solution into one nostril at a time while holding your head sideways. The solution will flow through your nasal cavity and come out the other nostril.
  • Get vaccinated
    Along with cold prevention, it’s important to protect yourself from upper respiratory illnesses like the flu and COVID-19. Lowering your risk of severe illness means less risk of germs migrating to the ears and causing further infections.
  • Manage seasonal allergies
    Allergies can cause swelling around the eustachian tubes in your ears. This can prevent fluid from draining away from the middle ear, which increases the risk of bacteria and viruses growing in the fluid. Try anti-allergy nasal sprays like Flonase or Nasonex.

If you or your loved one has been struggling with the pain and discomfort of an ear infection for more than 2-3 days and the symptoms don’t seem to be getting better (or their getting worse), visit Coastal Urgent Care of Gonzalez for fast, effective ear infection treatment. We welcome walk-in appointments 7 days a week so you can feel better fast—and on your schedule.