What Is the Best Medicine for an Ear Infection?

Madeline Hlobik
Madeline Hlobik17 Sep 2021

Ear infections are painful medical conditions that affect 60 to 80% of children by age one and are caused by bacteria or a virus entering the body. The best-recommended pain relievers for individuals with an ear infection to take are Tylenol (acetaminophen) and Motrin (Ibuprofen), the best oral antibiotic is amoxicillin, the best ototopical antibiotic is ofloxacin .3% ear drops, and the best anesthetic ear drops are antipyrine and benzocaine otic (A/B Otic) drops.

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The Best Medicine for an Ear Infection

When trying to combat an ear infection, there are different avenues you can take in terms of relieving the pain and eradicating the infection. For example, pain relievers, such as Tylenol and Motrin, are used in relieving pain or discomfort associated with an ear infection. On the other hand, though, antibiotics like amoxicillin or ofloxacin .3% ear drops, are important for fighting off the bacteria that triggered the condition. 

The Cost of Best Ear Infection Medications

Take a look at the table below for the average costs associated with the associated cost of each medication. 

Ofloxacin .3% Ear Drops$55.85 for 5 mL
A/B Otic Drops$64.69 for 10 mL

Pain Relievers

Pain relievers play a crucial role in the betterment of an ear infection as they can better the discomfort that stems from the ear infection within a few hours. Typically, doctors will advise that you rotate between Tylenol and Motrin to experience the best effects.

With pain relievers though, it’s also important to take into consideration the age of the individual with the ear infection. If a child is younger than 6 months, doctors advise to only give them Tylenol. However, if they are above the age of 6 months, it is okay to give them either Tylenol or Motrin.

Oral Antibiotics

Antibiotics are useful in that they actually kill the bacteria within the middle ear space that causes the infection. Thus, you will most likely receive a prescription for an antibiotic if your ear infection is suspected to be bacterial.

Physicians are most likely to prescribe an antibiotic if:

  • A child is over 6 months and is suffering from more intense ear pain and has a fever of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit or above.
  • A child between the ages of 6 months to 23 months has slight middle ear pain in one or both ears with a temperature less than 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Children over the age of 24 months have mild ear pain in one or both ears with a temperature less than 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

Amoxicillin is the most commonly used antibiotic for treating ear infections, as it works well in stopping bacterial growth. It is an antibiotic that falls into the penicillin category and typically can be taken with or without food every 8 to 12 hours, or as directed by your doctor. 

A drawback to utilizing amoxicillin though is that it must be administered often for the most effectivity. Additionally, as with any antibiotic, some doctors may recommend the wait-and-see approach to avoid antibiotic resistance and other potential side effects that come with taking an antibiotic.

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Ototopical Antibiotics

Ototopical antibiotics are medications that are administered topically in the ear to treat both middle and outer ear infections. Ototopical antibiotics can be beneficial in that they allow for a greater concentration of medication to be administered at a given time, they are generally cheaper than oral antibiotics, and they disrupt the ear canal’s microenvironment in order to control bacterial proliferation. 

Ofloxacin .3% ear drops are administered via liquid droplets into the ear, and similarly to oral antibiotics, is commonly used to treat both outer and middle ear infections by stunting bacterial growth. It belongs to a class of drugs known as quinolone antibiotics and should be used regularly in order to see the best results.

Anaesthetic Ear Drops

Anaesthetic ear drops are used to help remove ear pain and swelling that is prompted by middle ear infections. Additionally, they can help eradicate earwax buildup and typically come in liquid droplet form.

A/B Otic drops fall into this class of medications called analgesics and can be used in combination with other antibiotics. Typically, to see the most benefits, it is used 3 times a day for 2 to 3 days. A/B Otic drops are unique in that they contain 2 main medications— Antipyrine’s main purpose is to decrease the pain, and benzocaine helps numb the area.

Ear Infection Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Monitoring an ear infection and knowing whether or not you are properly combating it can be confusing. In order to have a better glimpse into the ins and outs of ear infections and medications, take a look at some of these commonly asked questions. 

How is an ear infection diagnosed?

Generally, physicians will be able to diagnose an ear infection based on the symptoms you describe. Some common symptoms of an ear infection include fever, difficulty sleeping, reduced hearing, drainage from the ear, and pulling at one or both ears. Additionally, the doctor will use an otoscope, a lighted instrument, to inspect the ears, throat, and nasal passage to confirm the diagnosis. 

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How can I prevent an ear infection?

Maintaining overall health is key to preventing ear infections. You can take further action by receiving recommended vaccines such as the flu vaccine and pneumococcal vaccine and cleaning your hands. It is also advised to avoid smoking and second-hand smoke exposure and dry your ears thoroughly after you swim. To prevent ear infections for younger children, it is recommended to only breastfeed until your baby is 6 months old and then continue to breastfeed until the baby is about 12 months old.

When should I seek medical attention?

It is suggested that you see a doctor if: 

  • Your child has a fever of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Symptoms appear to be worsening
  • There is pus/discharge coming from the ears
  • Hearing loss occurs

What is the wait-and-see approach?

Typically, symptoms of ear infections will improve within the first couple of days, and a majority of ear infections can clear up on their own within a week or two. Doctors may advise you to simply monitor an ear infection or wait a few days until filling a prescription if a child between 6 to 23 months has mild ear pain and a temperature below 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit, or if a child 24 months or over has mild ear pain and a temperature less than 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason for this is to prevent an individual from developing a resistance to antibiotics when the individual’s body could fight the infection on its own. 

Should I use ototopical or oral antibiotics for an ear infection?

You will want to consult your doctor first and foremost before making this decision. Typically, ototopical antibiotics are more effective in eradicating infections due to their higher concentrations, but your doctor may recommend oral antibiotics depending on your age or medical history.

Bottom Line

Ear infections can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful medical conditions, especially for young kids. However, there are solutions to combating it such as taking pain relievers or antibiotics. To best fight the pain associated with the infection, alternating Tylenol and Motrin is the best option for immediate relief. However, if the infection is bacterial as opposed to viral, antibiotics such as amoxicillin or ofloxacin will be the best option for fighting off the infection.

Madeline Hlobik

Madeline is a Senior at UCLA majoring in Human Biology & Society with a minor in Spanish. She's currently a Healthcare Research Analyst at Mira, writing content for the blog to help the public better understand certain medical issues, technologies, testings, and the importance of healthcare.