How to cure / soothe / ease / survive / deal with an ear infection

How to soothe an ear infection

This is an ear

This week, I’ve had an ear infection. I’m still having it, but I am learning to live with it. I hope that some day soon it will just go away, but until that point I still need to be able to eat, rest and do some work, so here’s how I’m coping. Here is how to ease an ear infection.

Drugs: Cure with Amoxicillin

Up to 60% of ear infections don’t actually need antibiotics in order to be cured. Antibiotics will only cure bacterial infections and not viral, but I’ve had ear infections before and I haven’t just had a cold recently, therefore I know it wasn’t caused by that, so as soon as I thought I had an ear infection coming on, I headed down to the GP and was prescribed amoxicillin, which I’ve had every time I’ve had an ear infection. I was also lucky to get a pharmacy coupon on that. It takes 48-72 hours to start to take effect though, so I knew I was going to get worst before I got better. I needed a plan for easing the pain…

Other Medication

You’re going to want some pain relief. The GP recommended co-codamol, luckily I had some of that lying around, but not everyone gets on with that, so I would advise paracetamol and/or ibuprofen. Paracetamol will reduce your temperature as well as relieving pain and ibuprofen with reduce swelling, which may help your ear to drain. I took 2x200g of ibuprofen with 2x500g of paracetamol together. I have no idea if this is OK, I’m not a doctor, but it was within the guidelines on each box, it helped ease the pain and I’m not dead. As the infection became worse, I noticed that the pain killers would wear off quicker. At this point I disregarded the frequency of the dosing (up to 8 of each tablet in 24 hours) and was probably hitting up nearer 10-12 of each. However, I am a relatively healthy 29 year old so I think I’m OK to play with the dosing a little. Plus, I’m an adult, so I made this decision myself. Please be responsible with your drug ingestion. Again, I am not a doctor, I can’t guarantee the effect any medication will have on your body, nor can I be held responsible for it.


Get yourself a hot water bottle. This hot water bottle is your friend. You’re going to be getting very close to this hot water bottle for the duration of your illness. Just put it on or around your ear, lie on it, lie it on you, whatever, it will help with the pain. Apparently heat also increases blood flow which can clear the infection quicker. I just applied heat because it felt so damn good. Don’t remove the cover though, you will burn your ear and maybe face and this is not attractive.

Oral Fixation

You might not really feel like eating much right now, but you need to keep your energy up to help fight off the infection, plus chewing can help loosen the liquid in your ear. I ate hot foods like soup and stewed apple, but also sucked sweets to try and loosen the ear liquid and chewed gum to also dislodge the liquid.

I wouldn’t advise putting food stuff in your ear

I’ve read a lot of articles about putting oil, cinnamon, garlic, onions and other ingredients in your ear to soothe the pain of an ear infection. I wasn’t keen on this kind of activity. It sounded more like some kind of YouTube challenge than a cure for my affliction. However, I did put some TCP on a cotton pad and rest it over the top of the infected ear. This did seem to help, though it was a little cold, which did not help.

Lymph Node Milking

People tell me all the time that they don’t get Twitter. Well, I do, so I fired up my Hootsuite and searched for ‘ear infection.’ I’m sure this seems odd to most, but I had no issue with tweeting the other people that were also proactively (i.e. tweeting about) suffering from an ear infection. Some people ignored the camaraderie and empathy I was offering, but some returned it and some gave me useful, useable, valuable tips. Enter @BenAllenKOSU of  Stillwater, Oklahoma! He recommended lymph node milking thanks to @KateSpencer1. Didn’t sound to pleasant to me, but I was getting desperate. Turns out that it’s the gentle massaging of the neck, ears and head area to coax the ear liquid away from the ear and to the lymph nodes where it is then drained away by the body. I found this video on it on YouTube and Heather (lady in the video), explains it all much better than I could.

Good Vibrations

Here’s where it all gets a bit weird, if you weren’t already turned off by the milking. Moaning about my ear infection on Twitter, I was contacted by a company called Ear Doctor. Basically, this is  just a wand that you stick behind you ear and it vibrates away the liquid, which is causing pressure. It’s available on Amazon and eBay apparently, but I didn’t look and I couldn’t really wait 5-7 days for delivery. So I got creative. You could use the back of an electric tooth brush or anything else which vibrates, as long as it’s clean. This will ease pressure temporarily and it feels pretty nice too, just don’t get carried away, as I’m not sure how healthy it is.

Seek Medical Attention

If your symptoms aren’t clearing, go back to your GP. I did and discovered I was only given half the recommended dose. I was then given drops and stronger drugs. In the UK we pay for health care through the NHS and in America it’s through insurance, so you do have the right to demand you’re treated properly.


Here is a list of things I think you should try and avoid whilst infirm:

  • Caffeine – you’re going to find it hard enough to sleep without this stimulant in your body.
  • Smoking – never, ever good when ill and it will not aid blood circulation and therefore will inhibit recovery.
  • Earphones – these will hurt and keep your ear warm and moist, which bacteria loves. You need to let your ear breathe. You might want to disinfect all ear buds post infection too, to stop re-occurrence.
  • Alcohol – it doesn’t seem to advise against this in the antibiotics leaflet, but give yourself a break. Stay off the liquor for a few days and your body should recover quicker. Update: I’ve been told by a nurse friend that alcohol won’t make you worse, but will impact the effectiveness of any anti-biotics you’re taking,
  • Getting water in your ear – it’s tough when showering, but water in your ear provides more a of medium for bacteria to grow.


I’m not going to lie to you. Even with everything above, you’re going to find it hard to sleep. It’s been Comedy Week on YouTube this week, which has really kept me going. I’d recommend the following channels. But it’s YouTube, there’ll be something on there that’ll take you mind off the throbbing pain in your ear: It’s Grace (formerly Daily Grace) Epic Meal Time College Humour Sorted Food Bad Teeth If all else fails, I turn to cat videos! Trashy mags, books for your Kindle and on Demand TV / Netflix will all get you through and if you’re anything like me, avoid talking to people as you’ll only moan to them about your ear infection or be generally grumpy. So, there you have it. That is how to soothe an ear infection to make it a little more bearable. Below I have written a list of items you might want to pick up to get you through the duration of your suffering. Good luck and get well soon. List of things

  • Prescription drugs
  • Paracetamol
  • Ibuprofen
  • Hot water bottle
  • Squash (you need a lot of liquid, add some flavour to make it more exciting. This will seem exciting after 3 days of being bed ridden)
  • Old towel for seeping ear
  • Chewing gum
  • Soup
  • Custard
  • Apples for stewing
  • Potatoes for mashing
  • Sweets for sucking
  • Something that vibrates
  • Trashy magazines
  • Tissues
  • Orange juice (vitamin C to fight off that scurvy)
  • Decaf tea / fruit tea / hot chocolate (maybe some marshmallows too)

Any other hints and tips, leave them below.

UPDATE: I’ve now made a video in case you’d rather watch than read.

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  • Hafsa November 4, 2013, 6:16 pm

    Thank you so much! I have a terrible ear infection as well as a sore throat too, and your blog helped me so much! The hot water bottle really worked for me, as well as the soup and hot chocolate 😉

    • Jo Darby December 2, 2013, 7:49 pm

      Glad it helped. I’ve subsequently had another ear infection, so am now on a quest to prevent them.

  • Fiona December 27, 2013, 9:34 pm

    Thank you! The water bottle is helping

    • Jo Darby January 12, 2014, 6:44 pm

      Good, I’m glad. Nasty things, ear infections, aren’t they?

  • Molly March 20, 2014, 3:00 am

    Thank you so much for the information! I get ear infections a lot. I’m going to try some of your steps for tonight!
    Thank you,

  • ashleigh May 4, 2014, 10:21 pm

    I have exma in the ear in result suffer with ear infections all the time and find laying on a hot water bottle the best thing ever x

    • Jo Darby May 11, 2014, 12:34 pm

      I know, it’s great, isn’t it? My mum has always been an advocate of hot water bottles, so I’ve grown up putting them on anything that hurt.

  • Kim May 11, 2014, 2:47 pm

    Thank you so much! I have a sock filled with salt that I’m microwaving and holding on my ear. It feels so gooood! Trying the massaging thing now…

  • Heather November 18, 2014, 10:35 pm

    The lymph node massage really helped!! 😀 thank you

    • Jo Darby November 19, 2014, 4:04 pm

      Glad to hear it. Thought it looked a little odd, but actually feels really good.

  • Holly November 23, 2014, 1:03 am

    Unfortunately none of this worked for me!
    Only the antibiotics and the strongest cocodimal the hospital had is what i need, they are helping the pain thank god!
    I suffer with eczema in my ears bad, so when i get a cold my ears are the first to get infected! Ear canals swell, lose my hearing, discharge, face numbness!! Awful awful things!!!

    • Jo Darby November 25, 2014, 9:00 pm

      So sorry to hear this. I’m working on a post about trying to prevent ear infections, which I hope will help.

  • marilyn March 21, 2015, 10:44 am

    i have the same thing at the mo and i really enjoyed reading this, thank you for taking the time to write it! inspired my shopping list too-mashed potato and stewed apple here i come!

  • Nadia cracknell March 30, 2015, 2:18 am

    Thank you for the advice. Currently awake in pain listening to my partner snore. Going down to get a hot water bottle now

  • Sia May 9, 2015, 8:25 pm

    Ehh…I was researching this for reasons the other day. (For A Book) As always, check with a doctor or pharmacist first but when I looked it up, warm herbal teas sweetened with honey was suggested. Not quite sure of the rationale for that one beyond ears, nose, and throat being connected and the warmth. The honey is…well, honey.

  • Alex July 21, 2015, 4:31 pm

    Thanks to this blog post and Netflix I’m only going to have burst into tears 4 times today. Cannot wait for this to be over.
    We gotta vote ear infections off the island.

    • Jo Darby August 28, 2015, 12:04 pm

      I hope you’re feeling better now. Ear infections are the worst!

  • Eleanor January 25, 2016, 6:41 pm

    Your blog has given me hope ,- 24 hours in and I’m worse not better

    Just sorted a hot water bottle and it’s relaxing me

    Am hoping after a night sleep I will feel relief in the morning

    • Jo Darby February 7, 2016, 5:20 pm

      Ear infections are a waiting game, unfortunately. But I hope you are managing to get as comfortable as possible.

  • Caroline January 28, 2016, 8:02 pm

    Thank you for making me laugh when I couldn’t feel less like laughing. This is all excellent advice, delivered with great attitude.

    Hot water bottles all the way. Even better are those little microwaveable herbal wheat packs (I have a lavender one) which fit nicely under or over the offending ear. Netflix, iPlayer, and cuddles from my cat are keeping me going. I tried a meditation podcast last night specifically for dealing with pain and it was briefly quite effective. Loved the lymph node drainage, haven’t tried the vibrations though I like the idea.

    Important to drink loads of water. I bought lots of fruit to boost the system but haven’t felt well enough to eat much of it unfortunately.

    This ear pain is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. I’m approaching my third night of misery and there’s no sign of a let up. Co-codamol is keeping the worst at bay but it’s given me a dicky tummy and a sticky dry mouth so I hope I can get off it soon. GP tomorrow. I also have an eye infection so no escape. Oh yes I’m quite a catch right now 😉

    Glad i found this blog. Thanks again!

    • Jo Darby February 7, 2016, 5:20 pm

      Oh Caroline, so sorry to hear this, but glad I might have helped in some small way.

  • Jan Derks April 5, 2016, 1:49 am

    Hello everybody who came here due to ear-infection problems!
    I wanted to add something which is: If you suffer ear infections often, please go see a specialist. Although ear infections are common, when you have them on a regular base, a different and more serious problem can occur. First let me explain that if you have pain and suffering from an infection, you should be glad, because when you have chronical ear infections, pretty soon you won’t even notice, the body stops sending the pain signals to the brain, which is dangerous. It is dangerous because you will walk around with the condition and that can, and at some point most certainly lead to the forming of “cholesteatoma”. Cholesteatoma forms when the infected mid-ear section causes the eardrum to be sucked inwards, in that proces it will dispose “waste” into the mid-ear section, this “waste” will form hard cystes, or balls, or rocks, whatever you wanna call it. Not only will that threaten to break your inner structures as they grow, but also the enzymes that accompany this whole circus “eat” bone material. In the worst cases it can even eat the small seperation to the brain, contaminating the brain.
    I don’t want to cause any panic or anything over here, because all that is very rare, it’s just that I am a professional musican who found out the hard way. I had 4 surgeries and me and my specialist are still figuring out how to control the ongoing damage to the right ear. I wouldn’t write anything here if the problem wasn’t caused by what people generally see as an innocent ear-infection, and I only write this because I really hope that people will take ear problems to a specialist as soon as they suspect that it’s a re-occuring thing. Especially if you’re an adult, because for kids its very normal to have earproblems, but as an adult, please see a specialized eardoctor. The best indicator is how the hearing feels, because like I said, the body stops sending the pain signals when it occurs a lot, so that’s no indicator anymore.
    I’m sorry if this is a response that’s a bit too long, but it’s information I think a lot of people are unaware of.
    The treatments written here on this site make a lot of sense, very usefull stuff!
    Take care and be well!

    • Jo Darby April 11, 2016, 2:22 pm

      Hi Jan

      Thanks for your comments and I agree with you. I was hoping this post would help people that are suffering with an ear infection and awaiting its recovery AFTER seeing a specialist and receiving treatment, but it is useful to clarify this.

      I hope my advice can ease the symptoms, they will not cure the infection.


  • kerryleigh August 1, 2016, 5:42 pm

    My ear infection started after I had tonsilitis. Finished first course of antibiotics but now im on round three of different ones again! Hopefully this is the last round. And I will definitly be trying all of these things. Thanks.

    • Jo Darby August 7, 2016, 2:07 pm

      This sounds horrific. I really feel for you. Hope some of these things help.

      Jo x

  • Claudia August 9, 2016, 2:36 am

    Hello Jo,

    Thank you for your kind advice. This is also my first ear infection; I am 28 year pretty healthy woman, right now I am pregnant with my 3rd. I have two little ones at home. I have to say; I am not experiencing pain like most people are. I think this is odd but I am not complaining. The doctor prescribed amoxicillin. My problem isn’t the pain, although I did have pain for a whole day and a half. After that it hasn’t persisted. My main problem is not being able to hear from my left ear. I feel impaired, I feel no hope, I am so depressed and am having such a hard time being a mother. I can’t sleep at night; the constant ringing and not being able to hear is just driving me insane!!! I wanted to ask you; how long did it take you until you could hear again? Any other suggestions on how to get the fluid out? I am in such desperation all I do is cry. On top of my pregnancy hormones being all out of whack.

    Thank you again!

    • Jo Darby November 4, 2016, 1:28 am

      Ah, Claudia, I wish I had seen your comment sooner. As you probably know by now, ear function restores itself gradually rather than all of a sudden, however, I don’t recall how long it took. Sorry. My best mate is currently suffering with an ear infection and she gets married in a week, so I’m trying to ease her stress and get her to rest. It must be difficult with the pregnancy and other kids to look after.

      All I can offer is sympathy, but as it is now November, I sincerely hope you have fully recovered. x

  • George December 18, 2016, 2:22 am

    Hi Jo,

    Can’t believe I’ve never seen this post before! I’m a 21yr old male and have just driven home at 1am from a anniversary weekend away with my gf due to a sudden ear ache (suspected infection) I’ve suffered from infections in my ears since I was young and in a moment of real upset and anger of the situation your post really helped lighten my mood. I take the said drugs, use hot water bottles, mum use to give me hot salt when I was younger. I just wondered if you ever created the prevention article? I probably suffer from 3/4 infections a year but I am a hygienic person but cannot stand anything when it comes to my ears, even ear drops send chills down my body so would be an interesting read.

    Thanks again,

    • Jo Darby February 21, 2017, 1:53 am

      Oh George, this really does suck. I’m sorry to hear it. However, you may be pleased to know that as I’ve got older (I am 33 now), my ear infections have become less frequent and when I do have them, I can spot them sooner, seek treatment sooner and therefore recover sooner, meaning they tend not to go full blown gluey and throbbing.

      I was working on a prevention article and I will complete it for you.

  • John Baillie January 18, 2017, 7:12 pm

    Great idea with the hot water bottle! Im going to try it tonight. Thanks

    • Jo Darby February 21, 2017, 1:29 am

      Hope your ear infection cleared up. I suffered one just last week. They happen to the best of us.

  • Stephanie Campbell February 27, 2017, 6:38 pm

    Omg you are amazing !! I loved reading this article…… as I’m lying on the couch feeling like my ear is going to fall off and right now I want it too !! Started antibiotics 24 hours ago and still no help, so I’m glad you said takes up to 72 hours. I love your humour too 😊

    • Jo Darby June 21, 2017, 12:09 am

      Thank you. I love that so many people with this ear trauma are leaving messages. An ear infection sounds like such a mild affliction, but it really is one of the worst pains I have ever felt. x

  • Joanne March 3, 2017, 1:19 am

    Morning all! Jan 24 I went to out of hours with terrible ear pain left ear…they said I had tonsillitis (my tonsils are ALWAYS enlarged always have been) they gave me penicillin and an oilatum cream I was 6 weeks pregnant and the doctor said it all I could have so off I went…it didn’t clear up after a 14 day course of penicillin. I went back to my own doctor who gave me penicillin again 7 day course and again it didn’t do a thing. 4 days ago I went back again as I have an ear infection on both ears and was loosing the will of I’m honest, going through a miscarriage at the same time so my bodies all over the place. Doctor gave me amoxicillin I’ve taken it for 4 days, I’m completely deaf I can’t hear a thing (not always a bad thing) I can’t sleep, hot water bottles are helping but cocodamol 30/500 and ibuprofen are doing nothing…I’m a big girl so I know I can take a
    Bit more than the advised dose and still no relief. Went to out of hours doctor about an hour ago as I’ve really had enough I just want to sleep! Was amusing having the doctor write me notes I must say but the idiot rammed the temp thing on my ear 39degrees and the pulled on the and rammed that looky looky thing in and told me I had…wait for it – an ear infection 😂😂 I couldn’t help but laugh! He said I need swabs and referring but he wouldnt do it. He said I can’t give you anything as what your telling me is pain Meds aren’t working. I interrupted him and said fine I’ll start on the tramadol then! At the end of my tether gonna watch the video you put up and give it a go. I’ve got like swollen “pipes” coming from my ears down my neck/jaw so I’m guessing do the massage to them. Sorry to rant on here, everyone asleep and I thought stuff it I’m gonna share my
    Moaning with someone else lol! I’m gonna take my shivering hormonal mess of a self for a hot bath and put hand warmers on my ear muffs then take me tramadol to bed and see what he does lol! Thanks for reading and sorry if I’ve scarred anyone for life lol!

    • Jo Darby June 21, 2017, 12:07 am

      Oh my goodness, Joanne, I feel bad for ever complaining, this is a complete nightmare. I hope you have recovered and I’m so sorry about your miscarriage. Come back here to rant any time. x

  • Grace Coleman April 5, 2017, 3:19 am

    Thank you so much for this article! I was in so much pain today and I’m having symptoms similar to swimmers ear though I haven’t been swimming yet this year. I actually used a pain patch because the pain was affecting my jaw and head. I was thankful for the heat compress, although it didn’t soothe instantly like most people. You are so kind to want to help other people with their pain and thank you for recommending comedy and etc. we need more people like you in this world, thank you!

    • Jo Darby June 20, 2017, 11:59 pm

      Thank you, Grace. That’s a really nice comment. Hope you’re feeling better now. x

  • Nicola Louise Case April 11, 2017, 1:42 pm

    I’ve suffered from a lot of ear infections in both ears for 4 years, they are truely awful things and my biggest sympathies to anyone who suffers from them. I am currently riding out the most painful one I’ve ever had. I won’t let my hot eater bottle go lol. Got antibiotics and a spray from the doctor and hoping it will soon clear up. very sound advice. Many thanks .

    • Jo Darby June 20, 2017, 11:58 pm

      Only just seen this comment, sorry. How are you doing? Have you got any tips to share? Jo x

  • Darren M. June 26, 2017, 2:17 pm

    Thank you for the advice! I know many people already mentioned that the hot water bottle solution worked, but I just want to mention that it REALLY does work. I could not get any sleep last night, but i tried the hot water bottle as a last resort and i managed to fall asleep for 1 hr! Then as soon as I woke up, i tried again, and i got 2 more hours! Then I tried one more time, and I got 4 hrs of sleep. So I really appreciate you and thank you again!

    • Jo Darby August 28, 2017, 2:00 pm

      Those 4 hours will really help you to recover. Get well soon. x

  • Alec December 30, 2017, 6:48 am

    Really informative post, but never exceed the dose of paracetamol or ibuprofen. Paracetamol overdose takes a few days to show effect and people do die a horrible agonising death from liver failure. The dose instructions are there for a reason

  • Michelle Myers January 19, 2018, 1:17 am

    I’m a school nurse and I use this thing called an Ear Ease. Sort of like a mini hot water bottle.

  • Joni Proctor March 21, 2020, 7:50 am

    Thank you for posting. Very helpful. I have had an infection for about 2 weeks now. My continuing problem is that I have perforated ear drums and every time I have a shower I have to make earplugs to keep my ears dry. Sometimes they are not watertight! That starts up an infection. My problem now is isolation re coronavirus. I can’t get to the GP as I have no car and no one to take me! I can feel it now and I’m just worried it will get to my brain! does anyone know if it can?