Antibiotic Ear Drops – When and How to Use Ear Drops Properly
Not uncommonly, antibiotic ear drops may be prescribed to resolve an ear infection. The ear infection may be a mild swimmer’s ear that afflicts the skin of the ear canal, or the middle ear which would involve the eardrum and the space behind it. Step 1: Lean the head over such that the affected ear is pointed straight up.
Step 2: Pull the ear gently towards the top and back part of the head. This straightens the ear canal which is normally curved so the drops can fall as deeply into the ear canal as possible.
Step 3: Squeeze the correct number of drops into the ear after the bottle has been shaken and warmed to body temperature.
Step 4: During and after drop placement, pump the tragal cartilage in order to force the drops as deeply down into the ear canal as possible. Otherwise, due to water surface tension, it tends to float near the entrance where it does no good. Here’s an internal view of an ear model demonstrating why tragal pumping is important. Notice that the ear drops colored with blue does not go very far down into the ear canal until tragal pumping has been performed.
Here’s another view of tragal pumping. Step 5: Keep the head tilted for 2-5 minutes to allow gravity to disperse the ear drops as thoroughly as possible.
Only if there is a lot of ear drainage present, prior to placing drops into the ear, try to wick as much of the drainage out of the ear as possible by inserting a rolled up corner of a tissue or paper towel into the ear canal.
This step will allow the antibiotic ear drops to penetrate more easily deep into the ear.
Keep in mind that ear drops used to treat middle ear infections will only work if a hole or tube is present in the eardrum. Why? With a middle ear infection, infected pus accumulates behind the eardrum.
This would be an enclosed space that ear drops would not be able to reach due to an intact eardrum. However, a hole or tube in the eardrum can allow pus to escape through the tube and out the ear canal. But what allows pus to come out can also allow ear drops to go in.
But because the opening of the tube is so small, it is important to pump the tragal cartilage to gently push the drops through the tube and into the space where the ear infection is located. To reiterate, don’t forget to pump the tragal cartilage of placing ear drops!