What is ear problems and injuries?

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Keeping ears dry: Overview

Your doctor wants you to keep water from getting into your ears. You may need to do this because of a ruptured eardrum, an ear infection, or other ear problems.

Caring for an ear problem or injury

Home treatment may be all that is needed to relieve ear discomfort that is minor or that comes and goes. Here are some things you can do to help you feel better.

  • Apply a warm washcloth to ease ear pain.

    There may be some drainage from the ear when the heat melts earwax. Do not use a heating pad when you are in bed. You may fall asleep and burn yourself.

  • Use ice to reduce swelling from a minor injury or sunburn.

    Apply it for 15 minutes 3 or 4 times a day during the first 48 hours after the injury. The sooner you apply a cold pack, the less swelling you are likely to have. Place a cloth between the ice and your skin.

  • Be safe with medicines.

    Depending on the cause of the problem, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter medicine. For example, adults may try decongestants for cold symptoms or nasal spray steroids for allergies. Follow the instructions carefully.

  • Chew gum to relieve pressure changes in the ear.

    For example, chewing gum may help relieve pressure when you're flying in an airplane.

  • Try using an over-the-counter earwax remover.

    If your ear feels plugged but you do not have clear signs of infection, an earwax remover may help. Be sure to follow the label directions carefully.

  • Don't use ear candles.

    There is no proof that they help to remove earwax or treat other ear problems, and they can cause serious injury.

How can you keep your child's ears dry?

  • Have your child take baths until the doctor says showers are okay again. Avoid getting water in the ear until after the problem clears up. Ask the doctor if you should use earplugs to keep water out of your child's ears.
  • Do not let your child swim until your doctor says it is okay.
  • If your child gets water in the ears, turn your child's head to each side and pull the earlobe in different directions. This will help the water run out. If your child's ears are still wet, use a hair dryer set on the lowest heat. Hold the dryer several inches from your child's ear.
  • Give your child medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. Do not put drops in your child's ears unless your doctor prescribes them.

Keeping ears dry: When to call

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if you have any problems.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.