To reduce pain from an earache or ear infection, MedlinePlus recommends applying an ice pack to the ear for 20 minutes, chewing to alleviate pressure, resting in an upright position and using over-the-counter ear drops. WebMD also says that most earaches from colds go away on their own without treatment and that pain usually reduces after the eardrum stretches. If the pain is unbearable, MedlinePlus suggests taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
To prevent outer ear infections, MedlinePlus warns against inserting objects into the ear. Infections can also occur from fluid getting trapped in the ear, so dry the ears well after bathing or swimming. If earaches are triggered by allergies, MedlinePlus suggests controlling them as much as possible and avoiding triggers. Steroid nasal sprays can also help reduce the likelihood of getting ear infections.
WebMD lists several symptoms that help distinguish ear infections from cold-related earaches. Increased pressure and pain when swallowing, more persistent pain when lying down, fluid drainage and temporary loss of hearing all indicate that the pain is being caused by an infection. Sometimes, during a cold-related earache, a secondary ear infection sets in, further confusing the two.
According to MedlinePlus, if sharp ear pain is accompanied by high fever, dizziness or weakness in the facial muscles, it is best to consult a medical professional.