Middle Ear Fluid: Care Instructions

Skip Navigation
Picture of the anatomy of the ear and of the middle ear

Overview

Fluid often builds up inside the ear during a cold or allergies. Usually the fluid drains away, but sometimes a small tube in the ear, called the eustachian tube, stays blocked for months.

Symptoms of fluid buildup may include:

  • Popping, ringing, or a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.
  • Trouble hearing.
  • Balance problems and dizziness.

In most cases, you can treat yourself at home.

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 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?

  • In most cases, the fluid clears up within a few months without treatment. You may need more tests if the fluid does not clear up after 3 months.
  • For adults, decongestants that you take by mouth or spray into your nose may be helpful. If you have allergies, the doctor may prescribe a steroid medicine that you spray into your nose.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

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

  • You notice changes in hearing.
  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

Enter S930 in the search box to learn more about "Middle Ear Fluid: Care Instructions".

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.