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The leakage of any kind of fluid from the ear is known as ear discharge or otorrhea in medical terms. (1)
It can stem from many different causes, but middle ear infections, buildup of earwax, trauma or injury to the ear canal, and a punctured eardrum are the most common culprits.
Some people may develop this problem due to swimmer’s ear (outer ear infection), eczema, or other skin disorders.
The color and consistency of the ear discharge can vary depending upon the underlying cause.
Home Remedies for Ear Discharge
Here are some natural ways to release the fluid or wax trapped inside your ear.
1. Allow gravity to do its work
The most basic way to drain out the fluid or wax accumulated inside your ear is through the downward push of gravity. (2)
- Tilt the affected ear sideways such that it becomes parallel to the ground.
- Insert a clean, sanitized finger slightly inside the affected ear to create a small vacuum that will help draw out the fluid.
- Use a cotton bud or a clean towel to wipe the discharge that comes out of the ear.
1. Place a towel on the floor or your bed.
2. Lie down on the side with the affected ear placed over the towel.
3. Stay in this position for a while and let gravity force the trapped fluid out of the ear.
2. Inhale steam
Steam inhalation can stimulate the flow of ear discharge for smooth drainage. The warm moist vapor will reach the ear cavity through the nasal passages. This will help open up the Eustachian tube and loosen the fluid or wax collected inside so that it moves out easily.
However, more scientific evidence is needed to establish the effectiveness of this remedy. (3)
- Fill a pan with water and mix in 2–3 drops of eucalyptus oil.
- Boil this mixture and then take it off the heat.
- Bend your face over the pan but at a safe distance to avoid burns.
- Cover your head and pan with a towel to trap the steam inside.
- Deeply inhale the steam until it cools down.
- Tilt the affected ear toward the ground until the fluid drains out.
- Use a cotton ball or clean towel to clean the discharge.
- Repeat this exercise as needed.
3. Apply a warm compress
Applying a warm compress can help relieve clogged ears. The gentle heat will dissolve the mucus or fluid buildup inside your ear to promote quick and easy drainage.
- Wrap a heating pad in a towel or soak a towel in comfortably warm water and wring out the excess liquid.
- Place the warm compress over the affected ear for 10 minutes. (Remove whenever you feel like the heat is too much for your skin to avoid burns or undue skin damage.)
- Tilt the affected ear toward the ground to expel the fluid.
- Wipe the discharge with a cotton ball or a clean towel.
- Reapply the warm compress after some time if needed.
4. Apply coconut oil or olive oil
Coconut oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory potential that can help treat certain ear infections and their associated symptoms such as swelling, pain, and discharge. (4)
People with nut allergies can have an adverse reaction to coconut oil and are therefore advised to use olive oil instead. Olive oil is also full of antioxidants that help curb inflammation and promote healing.
Warming the oil before use will help soften the discharge or wax inside your ear to make it drain out quickly. Plus, mixing garlic into the oil will provide additional medicinal benefits to combat the infection.
- Put 2 garlic cloves and ⅛ cup of coconut oil or olive oil in a pan.
- Simmer the mixture for 5 minutes.
- Use a cheesecloth to strain the oil in a container and let it cool down to a comfortably warm temperature (no more than 98°F).
- Transfer the oil to an eyedropper and put two drops into the affected ear.
5. Use an onion
Infection in the ear triggers fluid discharge and swelling inside it. The swelling shrinks the passage within the ear canal, making it difficult for the infected fluid to move out of the ear.
Onions contain a flavonoid called quercetin, which exhibits strong anti-inflammatory effects. (5) Thus, it can help reduce the swelling in your infected ear to allow the swift elimination of fluid discharge.
Moreover, it is credited with antimicrobial properties that can help fight ear infections to reduce such discharge.
- Chop a small onion.
- Microwave it for 1–2 minutes.
- Let it cool down and then strain out its juice.
- Use a dropper to put 2–3 drops of the onion juice into the infected ear.
- Wait for a few minutes for the liquid to settle inside the ear.
- Tilt the infected ear to expel the liquid along with the fluid discharge.
- Bake an onion for 30 minutes.
- Slice it in half.
- Wrap one-half of the onion in a thick cotton cloth and place it on the affected ear for 5 minutes.
- Wait for 10 minutes and then repeat the whole process.
6. Try neem oil
Neem oil possesses significant antiseptic properties that can help clear ear infections (6) and may reduce the fluid discharge caused by them.
It works as a natural anti-inflammatory agent that softens the ear discharge and curbs the swelling inside your middle ear to promote quick and easy drainage.
- Use a dropper to pour 3 drops of neem oil into the affected ear.
- Wait for about 15 minutes.
- Tilt the affected ear to drain out the fluid.
- Repeat 3 times a day for a few days.
7. Consider basil
Basil is credited with significant antibiotic activity, which can help relieve ear infections and the associated pain and discharge. (7)
- Thoroughly rinse 4–5 basil leaves.
- Crush the leaves to extract the juice.
- Heat the juice slightly so that it becomes lukewarm.
- Use a dropper to put 2–3 drops of basil juice into the infected ear.
- Repeat twice daily for a few days.
Prevention Against Ear Discharge
Here are some easy tips to reduce abnormal ear discharge:
- Dry your ears after coming out of the swimming pool or shower to prevent infection. Do this by tilting your head on either side for some time to let the water drain from the ear canal. It’s best to wear earplugs while swimming to keep water out of your ears. (8)
- Don’t insert any foreign object in your ear, including Q-tips.
- Wear protective gear over your ears while playing contact sports to prevent undue injury or trauma.
- Shield your ears from loud noises by wearing earplugs or earmuffs.
- Babies should be held in an upright position while bottle feeding to prevent the milk from dripping into their ear. (9)
- Phlegm-inducing foods can increase or worsen ear discharge, so it’s best to avoid them until your condition improves.
Additional Facts You Must Know About Ear Discharge
- Ear discharge, medically known as otorrhea, is defined as drainage coming out of the ear. It may be accompanied by ear pain, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), itching in the ear, hampered hearing, vertigo, and fever.
- Ear discharge is mostly a result of an acute middle ear infection with perforation in the eardrum, chronic middle ear infection with perforation in the eardrum, and/or cyst in the middle ear. If left untreated, this infection can spread to the outer ear canal and cause tissue death.
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus are the bacteria that are primarily responsible for infections in the outer ear canal. (1)
- Ear discharge is quite common in newborn babies and is usually treated with medicine prescribed by an ENT along with some self-care measures such as keeping the baby upright while breastfeeding to prevent the milk from dripping into their ear and to promote faster recovery.
The inside of your ear is extremely delicate and should be handled with utmost care. So, if your ear starts leaking fluid, the first thing you need to do is consult an ENT to find out what’s causing it.
If the doctor thinks your condition is within the scope of home treatment, then you may proceed with the above-listed remedies.
You generally don’t need medical treatment for removing excess earwax, but ear infections and ear damage may warrant it. Moreover, if you get ear discharge after a serious head or ear injury followed by other worrisome symptoms, then seek immediate medical help as this can prove to be a serious complication.