Knowing how to treat an earache saves you from pain and discomfort. An earache is a dull or sharp pain in the ear canal and surrounding areas. The severity and type of pain you experience depends on what is causing the earache and how long you've been affected. Earaches are caused by a variety of factors, like a cold, draft, wax buildup or change in environmental pressure.
- Determine the cause. An earache caused by an infection requires medication, so if you are showing signs of an infection, like pus from the ear or swelling, consult a doctor for treatment. If you have cold symptoms, such as a runny nose and cough, the earache may resolve itself as the cold dissipates. Keep the ear away from a draft source, like an open window.
- Apply mild heat to the affected ear. Use a washcloth dipped in warm water or a heating pad on a low setting and press against the ear for brief intervals, like ten minutes at a time.
- Take an oral or nasal decongestant. Over-the-counter cold and sinus medication and nasal sprays help relieve earache pain related to head congestion.
- Chew gum if pressure is causing the earache. The action of chewing helps decrease the pressure in your ear that builds when the elevation changes, like when you're on an airplane.
- Get an earwax remover if you feel the ear is plugged. A large amount of earwax may cause an earache and needs to be loosened to be properly removed. Visit your neighborhood drugstore or pharmacy to purchase an over-the-counter earwax remover.
- Take a pain reliever. A pain reliever such as ibuprofen or aspirin helps reduce pain and inflammation from an earache. Follow dosage instructions on any pain reliever you purchase to avoid an overdose.
If you experience signs of a serious problem, such as intense pain, swelling, heavy discharge from the ear or a significant loss of hearing, see a doctor immediately.