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Ear - Congestion

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Care at Home

  • SWALLOW AND CHEW MORE: * Swallow water or other fluid while the nose is pinched closed. Reason: Makes a vacuum in the nose that helps the ear tube open up. * After age 6, can also use chewing gum.
  • DECONGESTANT NOSE SPRAY (AGE 12 YEARS OR OLDER): * If chewing doesn't help after 1 or 2 hours, use a long-acting decongestant nose spray. You can ask your pharmacist to suggest a brand. * Dose: 1 spay per side, 2 times per day as needed. * Don't use for more than 3 days. Reason: Can cause rebound swelling in the nose. * Decongestants given by mouth (such as Sudafed) are not advised. They may lessen nose and ear congestion in some children. However, they also can have side effects.
  • ALLERGY MEDICINES: * Nose allergies can cause ear stuffiness. * If your child has hay fever or other allergies, give an allergy medicine. An example is Benadryl. See Dose Table. * See Hay Fever guide for other advice.
  • WHAT TO EXPECT: * The symptoms most often clear within 2 days (48 hours) with treatment. * It's safe for your child to swim or fly.
  • PREVENTION FOR AIRPLANE/MOUNTAIN TRAVEL: * Swallow during descent (coming down) using fluids or a pacifier. * Children over age 6 can chew on gum during descent (coming down). * Yawning also can open the middle ear.
  • CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF: * Ear pain occurs * Ear congestion lasts more than 48 hours * Your child becomes worse
  • WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: * Most often, this is from a blocked ear tube (eustachian tube). This tube normally drains the space behind the eardrum. It is usually not caused by an ear infection. * Here is some care advice that should help.


The information contained in these topics is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, it is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment. Talk with your healthcare provider about any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Nothing contained in these topics is intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment.

  • Not a Substitute - The information and materials in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker should not be used as a substitute for the care and knowledge that your physician can provide to you.
  • Supplement - The information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker are meant to supplement the information that you obtain from your physician. If there is a disagreement between the information presented herein and what your physician has told you -- it is more likely that your physician is correct. He or she has the benefit of knowing your child's medical problems.
  • Limitations - You should recognize that the information and materials presented here in Pediatric HouseCalls Symptom Checker have the following limitations, in comparison to being examined by your own physician:
    • You can have a conversation with your child's doctor.
    • Your child's doctor can perform a physical examination and any necessary tests.
    • Your child could have an underlying medical problem that requires a physician to detect.
    • If your child is taking medications, they could influence how he experiences various symptoms.

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