Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Risk Factors Symptoms Evaluation Treatment questions for doctor specialist Home Care pain in adults pain in children warning signs Complications Underlying Cause Anatomy

External Ear Infection Home Care

Home care for otitis externa includes:

  • Keep the ear canals dry:
    • Cover the ear canal with cotton while showering.
  • Do not insert objects into the ear canal:
    • Do not use cotton swabs in the ear canal.
  • Apply warm compresses to the ear:
    • Apply for 20-30 minutes, 3 times a day.
  • Take prescribed medications as directed.
  • Use antibiotic ear drops as directed.
  • Acetaminophen for pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain:

External Ear Infection Pain in Adults

Medications commonly used to control pain and inflammation in adults with otitis externa include:

  • Acetaminophen decreases fever and pain, but does not help inflammation.
  • Adult dosing is 2 regular strength (325 mg) every 4 hours or 2 extra-strength (500 mg) every 6 hours.
  • Maximum dose is 4,000 mg per day.
  • Avoid this drug if you have alcoholism, liver disease or an allergy to the drug. See the package instructions.
  • Common brand names include Tylenol, Panadol, and many others.





NSAID Precautions

External Ear Infection Pain in Children

Common medications used at home for ear pain in children with otitis externa include:

Aspirin and most of the other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) are not used in children except under a doctor's care.

  • Acetaminophen decreases fever and pain, but does not help inflammation.
  • Dosing is 10-15 mg per kilogram (5-7 mg per pound) of body weight every 4-6 hours, up to the adult dose.
  • Do not exceed the maximum daily dose.
  • Acetaminophen products come in various strengths. Always follow the package instructions.
  • Avoid this drug in children with liver disease or an allergy to acetaminophen.
  • Common acetaminophen products include Tylenol, Panadol and many others.

Always follow the package instructions.


External Ear Infection Warning Signs

Notify your doctor if you have otitis externa and any of the following:

Continue to External Ear Infection Complications

Last Updated: Dec 22, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed External Ear Infection References
  1. Bhandary S, Karki P, Sinha BK. Malignant otitis externa: a review. Pac Health Dialog. 2002 Mar;9(1):64-7. [12737420]
  2. McCoy SI, Zell ER, Besser RE. Antimicrobial prescribing for otitis externa in children. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2004 Feb;23(2):181-3. [14872192]
  3. Roland PS, Pien FD, Schultz CC, et al; Ciprodex Otic AOE Study Group. Efficacy and safety of topical ciprofloxacin/dexamethasone versus neomycin/polymyxin B/hydrocortisone for otitis externa. Curr Med Res Opin. 2004 Aug;20(8):1175-83. [15324520]
  4. van Balen FA, Smit WM, Zuithoff NP, Verheij TJ. Clinical efficacy of three common treatments in acute otitis externa in primary care: randomised controlled trial. BMJ. 2003 Nov 22;327(7425):1201-5. [14630756]
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