Fluid in the ear can lead to painful infection, hearing loss, balance disruption and even vomiting or diarrhea, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed childhood ailments, and what begins as an acute condition can develop into chronic illness if the fluid is not drained naturally or through medical intervention. The body clears most incidents of fluid buildup on its own, but remedies ranging from over-the-counter solutions to surgical procedures can speed the process along.
Apply a warm compress to the outer ear to ease discomfort and release congestion in the eustachian tube. The primary cause of fluid buildup is a blockage in the eustachian tube that prevents the fluid naturally produced in the middle ear from draining.
Take over-the-counter pain reliever to alleviate the pain associated with fluid buildup. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen, which can both relive pain and reduce inflammation.
Try over-the-counter decongestants to relive the pressure in the ear and to open the blocked eustachian tube. Blockages occur due to a variety of causes including allergic reactions, colds and sinus infections. Infants who frequently drink from a “sippy” cup are more susceptible to the condition.
Consult a doctor if the condition persists for more than two days, or if fever accompanies the fluid buildup. A temperature above 102 degrees for toddlers and above a fever of any level for infants warrants a doctor visit.
Take a full course of doctor-prescribed antibiotics to kill the infection that is causing the blockage in the eustachian tube.
Use a nonsurgical device such as Ear Popper as an intermediate step between medication and surgery. The Ear Popper is a prescription device that forces air into the eustachian tube and allows the fluid to pass. Ask your doctor if your condition is appropriate for such treatment.
Schedule a procedure known as tympanostomy tube insertion for persistent problems that do not respond to medication or non-surgical interventions. A surgeon inserts tiny tubes into the ear drum that allow the fluid to pass to the outer ear. The procedure is performed under general anesthesia which carries inherent risks, but there are few documented complications, according to MedlinePlus.
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If there is pus or bloody discharge exiting through the outer ear, you may have a damaged ear drum rather than a blocked eustachian tube, and you should see a doctor immediately.