Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Symptoms Evaluation Treatment questions for doctor specialist Home Care pain in adults pain in children skin wound warning signs Underlying Cause Types Anatomy

Ruptured Eardrum Home Care

Ear injuries may involve the ear drum or the outer ear.

Home care for injuries to the outer ear includes:

  • Perform wound care as directed by your doctor.
  • Clean the skin gently:
    • Use mild soap and water.
    • Do not scrub the skin.
    • Dry the skin.
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment.
  • Apply cold compresses:
    • Apply for 20-30 minutes, every 1-2 hours, for the first few days.
    • Important to control swelling
  • Clean the skin thoroughly:
    • Clean twice a day.
    • Use mild soap and water.
    • Do not scrub the skin.
    • Dry the skin.
    • Apply an antibiotic ointment.
  • Acetaminophen for pain
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain:
  • Take prescribed medications as directed:
    • Don't skip doses of your medication. This makes them less effective.
    • Be aware of the common side effects that may be caused by your medication.

Home care for a ruptured eardrum includes:
  • Apply petroleum jelly to a cotton ball and place the cotton ball over the opening to the ear canal.
  • Keep the ear canal dry:
    • Do not swim.
    • Do not use eardrops.
    • Place a cotton ball in the ear when bathing.

Ruptured Eardrum Pain in Adults

Medications commonly used to control pain and inflammation in adults with an ear injury 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

Ruptured Eardrum Pain in Children

Common medications used at home for pain in children with an ear injury 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.



Ruptured Eardrum Skin Wound

Minor cuts, abrasions and puncture wounds from an ear injury that do not require medical care can be treated at home.

Initial care includes:

  • Control bleeding with direct pressure.
    • Use a gauze or clean cloth directly on the wound.
    • Maintain the pressure for at least 10 minutes.
    • Do not keep looking at the wound.
  • Clean the wound with mild soap and water. Running water can help remove dirt.
  • Gently dab the wound with hydrogen peroxide to remove clotted blood or debris. Do not scrub or re-injure the wound.
  • Be sure there is no dirt or other foreign material left in the wound.
  • A butterfly bandage can be used to close very small, clean cuts.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment and a dry dressing.
  • Ear wounds may be left uncovered.
  • Keep the wound clean and dry.
  • Protect and rest the injured ear.

Ongoing care for minor skin wounds includes:
  • Abrasions may be cleaned 2-3 times a day with a mild soap such as dilute baby shampoo.
  • Gently clean scabs of the face with a warm, wet, soft cloth and hydrogen peroxide - try not to cause bleeding. Do not disturb dry scabs in other parts of the body.
  • Dry the wound gently, and completely, with a clean towel or gauze.
  • Apply an antibiotic as needed.

Tetanus Considerations
Tetanus shots (boosters) can be given up to three days after an injury, as long as you have had all your tetanus shots in the past. A tetanus booster seldom needs to be given right at the time of the wound. This is not an emergency and can be done in the doctor's office or clinic.

A tetanus shot is necessary right away if you have not had three tetanus shots at any time in your life.

You need a tetanus shot within three days for:
  • A dirty wound and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last five years
  • A clean, minor wound and you have not had a tetanus shot in the last ten years

Ruptured Eardrum Warning Signs

Notify your doctor if you have an ear injury and any of the following:

Continue to Ruptured Eardrum Underlying Cause

Last Updated: Feb 15, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Ruptured Eardrum References
  1. Balbani AP, Sanchez TG, Butugan O, Kii MA, Angelico FV Jr, Ikino CM, D'Antonio WE. Ear and nose foreign body removal in children. Int J Pediatr Otorhinolaryngol. 1998 Nov 15;46(1-2):37-42. [10190703]
  2. Rozsasi A, Sigg O, Keck T. Persistent inner ear injury after diving. Otol Neurotol. 2003 Mar;24(2):195-200. [12621331]
  3. Steele BD, Brennan PO. A prospective survey of patients with presumed accidental ear injury presenting to a paediatric accident and emergency department. Emerg Med J. 2002 May;19(3):226-8. [11971833]
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