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Treatment

Over-the-counter pain relievers will usually be enough to control pain. Examples include acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen. Resting the infected ear on a warm (not hot) heating pad can provide some relief. For a blocked Eustachian tube, drugs commonly used include decongestants and antihistamines.

Children with earaches should not take aspirin without a doctor's approval because aspirin has been linked to Reye's syndrome, a potentially fatal illness that can occur in children who have certain viral infections.

If you have an ear infection, antibiotics may not be needed. A trial of a decongestant and pain medicine may be sufficient. However, if the symptoms are not getting better after 2 -3 days or they are quickly getting worse, contact your doctor to discuss treatment with an antibiotic. If the symptoms are severe when you first see your doctor, he or she may advise starting an antibiotic right away.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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