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Earache can be a sharp, dull or burning ear pain that comes and goes or is constant. One or both ears may be affected.

What you can do at home

You can use over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to treat the pain.

Placing a warm flannel against the affected ear may also help to relieve the pain.

Your pharmacist may be able to recommend over-the-counter eardrops for your earache, but let them know your symptoms and ask for their advice first. 

Eardrops or olive oil drops should not be used without medical advice if the eardrum has burst, and they will not help all kinds of ear infection.

If you have an ear infection, you should avoid getting the affected ear wet.

Find out more.

You should call your GP if:

  • you have a high temperature (fever) of 38ºC (100.4ºF) or above
  • you have other symptoms, such as dizziness, a severe headache, or swelling around the ear
  • the earache does not improve within 24-48 hours.


Earwax is produced inside your ears to keep them clean and free of germs. It usually passes out of the ears harmlessly, but sometimes too much can build up and block the ears.

A build-up of earwax is a common problem that can often be treated using eardrops bought from a pharmacy.

If pharmacy treatment doesn’t work, contact your GP surgery. They may suggest having your ears washed out.

If these treatments don’t help, your GP may refer you to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) department for specialised treatment.

You can call 111 for advice if you need urgent medical help and are not sure what to do.

Need medical help fast?

Call 111 when you need medical help fast but it's not a 999 emergency. NHS 111 is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Calls are free from landlines and mobile phones.

Life-threatening emergency?

If the illness or injury is life-threatening, don't hesitate. Call 999 straight away.