Otorrhea is a drainage from the ear, which can be acute or chronic in nature. Any fluid draining from the ear can be very alarming.

The root cause of the problem should be ruled out immediately to avoid worsening of the condition. The treatment and management for Otorrhea primarily depends on the cause of the discharge. (1, 2)

A purulent discharge from the ear.image

Photo 1: A purulent discharge from the ear
Picture Source: www.ghorayeb.com

Ear discharge characterized by white cloudy drainage, which is associated with cerebrospinal fluid leak.photo

Image 2: Ear discharge characterized by white cloudy drainage, which is associated with cerebrospinal fluid leak
Picture Source: pedclerk.bsd.uchicago.edu

A doctor using a special equipment to assess the condition and severity of otorrhea in an elderly patient.image

Photo 3: A doctor using a special equipment to assess the condition and severity of otorrhea in an elderly patient.
Image Source: www.doctorshealthpress.com

Types of otorrhea

  1. Cerebrospinal (CSF) Otorrhea – A part of the cerebrospinal fluid is discharging from the ear, which could be secondary to brain-related problems. It could be due to brain tumor, fracture in the skull, or severe infection in the brain.
  2. Purulent Otorrhea – A cloud-like fluid is pouring from the infected ear. (2, 3, 4)

Otorrhea Causes

  1. Middle ear infection – Any infection in the middle ear can cause drainage. It causes inflammation in the middle ear, which can be associated with bacterial or viral infection. Middle ear infection is common in children. An increased amount of thick mucus in the ear can rupture the eardrum causing the fluid to drain from the eardrum and outside the ear. (4)
  2. Outer ear infection (Otitis externa) – It is known as swimmer’s ear characterized by inflammation of the outer segment of the ear. Outer ear infection can be caused by excessive water in the ear, humid environment, and skin conditions. (5)
  3. Impediment in the ear canal – Any types of strange object inserted into ear can cause inflammation. (5)

Clinical manifestations : Symptoms and Signs

There is a clear, watery drainage coming from the ear. Sometimes, the drainage is filled with pus and is associated with otitis externa. Purulent drainage has unpleasant smell.

Aside from the obvious drainage coming from the ear, the patient also complains of pain, nausea, fever, vertigo, and fatigue. Nose bleeding and a sensation of the ear being stuffed up can also be felt. (5, 6)

Otorrhea Treatment

Physical assessment

The doctor will conduct a thorough physical assessment using special ear equipment. For ear drainage, the doctor will suction to assess which particular part of the ear is causing the drainage. The severity and the duration of the drainage should be assessed too in order for the doctor to accurately determine the root cause of the problem and to provide the right treatment. (6)

Antibiotic treatment

The doctor will prescribe antibiotic to treat the root cause of the problem. While the infection is active, the patient is strongly advised to not get the ears wet as it could lead to perforation of the eardrum. However, if the doctor is suspecting meningitis, antibiotic treatment is held back until spinal tap result. (7)

Other treatment approach

An Otorrhea caused by cerebrospinal fluid is treated using a trans-canal method. For natural ear discharge, a trans-mastoid method is used. For chronic ear discharge, tubes are inserted into the ear to properly and thoroughly drain the fluid.

If the drainage is caused by a foreign object, the doctor will conduct the necessary step to get rid of the foreign object. In cases of brain injury, the treatment cannot be handled alone by an ear doctor. He should work hand in hand with a neurologist. (8, 11)

Natural home remedies for otorrhea

A mild case of otorrhea can be effectively managed at home using the following steps:

  • Gravitational force – One of the natural ways to completely remove discharges from the ear is through the use of the force of gravity. Lay on the floor and rest your ear on a towel. Let the fluid comes out naturally. Another way to remove the drainage using gravitational force is to position your ear parallel to the floor and place your one finger in the ear to create a vacuum effect. Clean the discharges using a cloth or a cotton stick. (10, 11)
  • Warm compress – Promoting fluid discharge can be done with the help of a warm compress. It also helps alleviate the pain. Get a clean cloth and soak in hot water. Wring the cloth and place on the affected ear for a few minutes. Make sure that your ear is parallel to the floor to promote drainage. Warm compress should be done carefully to prevent burning of the ear.
  • Vinegar – This kitchen must-have has a powerful antibacterial property. For ear drainage, white vinegar should be mixed with a rubbing alcohol to thoroughly facilitate the drainage of fluid from the ear. Place a few drops of the mixture using a dropper and position your affected ear parallel to the floor. Do this two time a day. (2, 4, 7)
  • Steam Inhalation – Inhaling steam helps release nasal congestion. The same thing goes for fluid in the ear. Cover your head with a towel and position yourself over a bowl of steaming hot water for a few minutes. Position your head parallel to the floor to facilitate drainage of fluid from the ear. For a cooling and relaxing effect, put a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the hot water.
  • Garlic – This is another kitchen must have, which is known for its antibiotic property. The extract of garlic can help treat mild middle ear infection. Apply the extract directly to the ear and dry the ear after a few minutes. Do this at least two times a day. (8)

Otorrhea is a condition that should not be taken lightly. Any fluid draining from the ear is an indication that something is not right in your body. If the drainage from the ear has been around for several days and causing pain and discomfort, then you should consult your doctor immediately.

Keep in mind that some case of otorrhea can be managed using home remedies. However, a severe cause of otorrhea warrants medical professional help.


  1. www.msdmanuals.com
  2. howshealth.com
  3. emedicine.medscape.com
  4. byebyedoctor.com
  5. www.aafp.org
  6. diseasespictures.com
  7. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  8. www.doctorshealthpress.com
  9. https://euromd.com
  10. www.neurotucson.com
  11. Advanced Therapy of Otitis Media By Cuneyt M. Alper

Published on by under Diseases and Conditions.
Article was last reviewed on September 25th, 2017.

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