Why Do I Have Fluid Draining from Ear?

Fluid, blood and other secretions from your ear is commonly known as ear discharge. Also called otorrhea, ear discharge is not the same as earwax that naturally occurs within your ear canal. That is why you should not ignore any ear drainage. In fact, you should seek immediate medical attention if there is constant secretion of sticky fluid, blood, or discharge stained with blood. What causes this problem in the first place? Let's find out more about it.

Causes of Fluid Draining from Ear

You usually have to deal with an ear discharge because of an infection of the middle or outer ear. Here is more about different causes.

1. Acute Otitis Media

You develop this condition when the eardrum or tympanic membrane is perforated. When this happens, you experience serious pressure and swelling with severe pain in the ear. There may be some other symptoms as well, such as red eyes, a sore throat, jaw pain, diminished hearing, and fever. Children with this condition also experience irritability, restlessness, and loss of appetite.

Your doctor will give you antibiotics if bacterial infections are present. You may also have to take anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling and pain, whereas corticosteroids are only necessary in severe cases of swelling.

2. Chronic Otitis Media

You may notice a persistent ear discharge when you have chronic otitis media. In most cases, you have yellow to brown discharge with a foul odor and no other symptoms of acute otitis.

For long standing bacterial infections, you will have to take antibiotics along with corticosteroids to reduce secretions and swelling. Children with chronic otitis media may require grommets as well.

3. Cholesteatoma

You develop this condition when a mass blocks the Eustachian tube or damages surrounding tissues. This puts you at an increased risk of chronic otitis media. The discharge is not due to perforation, but it happens due to retraction of the eardrum. You may have a cholesteatoma if you notice a foul smelling ear discharge that is scanty and usually painless, at least in the beginning. You will require surgery to fix the issue.

4. Severe Head Injury

Serious head injuries, especially the ones you sustain because of severe assault, hard falls, or motor vehicle accidents may result in fluid draining from ear. It could be clear or blood stained fluid.

You require immediate medical attention after severe head trauma, and it is even more important if you notice any fluid or blood coming out of the nose. Your doctor will order a CT scan to determine the best treatment option.

5. Otitis Externa

It refers to the inflammation of the external ear and ear canal. Caused by an allergic response or infection, it may produce certain symptoms such as itchy ear canal, pain, and swelling.

Antibiotics will help clear bacterial infections, but you may also require corticosteroids ear drops to reduce itching and swelling of the ear canal.

6. Other Causes

You may experience ear discharge due to many other causes as well. For instance, it may happen if:

  • You have cancer of the ear canal or there is a tumor in your middle ear.
  • You have an infection of the mastoid process of the skull that usually occurs when the infection causing Otitis media spreads.
  • You have foreign body in the ear that causes swelling of the ear canal.
  • You have necrotizing Otitis externa in which you develop Otitis externa first but the infection spreads to the bones of the skull.

Home Remedies for Ear Drainage

You may require antibiotics and try other treatment options but sometimes you can use home remedies to stop fluid draining from ear. Here are some suggestions:

1. Clearing the Fluid

In order to treat ear discharge, you first need to remove all the buildup of fluid in the affected ear. You can do it by tilting the side of your head while keeping the affected ear parallel to the floor and then using your clean finger to create a vacuum to eliminate the fluid. Alternatively, simply stand on one foot with your head titled to your affected side. Now, hop on your foot to remove the fluid.

2. Warm Compress

Apply warm compresses to your ear to help remove the fluid and reduce pain. Wrap a heating pad in a towel and lay your head on it for a few minutes several times a day. The heat will encourage the flow of fluid and reduce pain and swelling.

3. Steam Inhalation

Steam inhalation works by opening the Eustachian tube that will help eliminate fluid trapped in the ear. Add a few drops of eucalyptus in a large bowl filled with boiling water. Place a towel over your head, lean over the bowl and inhale the steam for 5 minutes. Then, tilt your head towards the affected side to remove the fluid.

4. White Vinegar and Alcohol

White vinegar proves effective mainly due to its antibacterial properties. It helps treat any bacterial infection in the middle ear, whereas rubbing alcohol helps with the evaporation of fluid build-up. Make a solution by mixing equal parts of rubbing alcohol and white vinegar. Get an ear dropper and fill it up with the solution. Lie down on your bed with your affected ear facing upward. Put a couple of drops in the ear and stay in the same position for 10 minutes. Then, tilt your ear to the other side to eliminate the fluid.

5. Blow Dryer

You can also use a blow dryer to help remove the fluid draining from ear. Opt for the lowest setting on a blow dryer and place it at some distance from your ear. Turn it on and send some air into the ear to dry up the fluid.


  • Avoid using cotton swabs to treat drainage from your ear.
  • Never use any pointed objects to relieve itching in the ears.
  • Do not let water get in your ear while taking a bath or shower.
  • Make use of earplugs when swimming and be sure to remove any water from ears after swimming. 
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