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Earache: Care Instructions


Even though infection is a common cause of ear pain, not all ear pain means an infection.

If you have ear pain and don't have an infection, it could be because of a jaw problem, such as temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. Or it could be because of a neck problem.

When ear discomfort or pain is mild or comes and goes without other symptoms, home treatment may be all you need.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Apply heat on the ear to ease pain. To apply heat, put a warm water bottle, a heating pad set on low, or a warm cloth on your ear. Do not go to sleep with a heating pad on your skin.
  • Take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve). Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Do not take two or more pain medicines at the same time unless the doctor told you to. Many pain medicines have acetaminophen, which is Tylenol. Too much acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be harmful.
  • Never insert anything, such as a cotton swab or a bobby pin, into the ear.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new or worse symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • You have new or worse pain near your ear, such as in your jaw or neck.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You have new or worse drainage from the ear.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

Enter C927 in the search box to learn more about "Earache: Care Instructions".

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.