After exams and tests performed by your health care provider confirm an ear infection, there are various ways to treat the infection depending on several factors such as age, medical history and the type of ear infection.
For children who are older than 6 months, otherwise healthy, and have mild symptoms, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend a wait-and-see approach for the first 72 hours.
Most ear infections will safely clear up on their own without antibiotics. Often, treating the pain and allowing the body time to heal itself is all that is needed.
Self-care treatment options include:
Applying a warm cloth or warm water bottle to the infected ear.
Using over-the-counter pain relief drops for ears.
Taking over-the counter medications for pain or fever, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. DO NOT give aspirin to children.
Using prescription ear drops to relieve pain.
Though most won't, some ear infections will require antibiotics to prevent becoming worse. This is more likely for children under age 2, who have a fever, and are acting sick (beyond just the ear), or is not improving over 24 to 48 hours.
If there is fluid in the middle ear and the condition persists, even with antibiotic treatment, your child's health care provider may suggest surgery. The most common surgery for ear infections is a myringotomy, which relieves pressure and allows drainage of the fluid. During this procedure, which requires general anesthesia, a surgeon may insert a small drainage tube through your child's eardrum. The drainage tube keeps a small hole open that allows air to get in so fluids can drain more easily down the eustachian tube.