Is There a Way to Prevent Getting Fluid in Your Ear?

Fluid in the ear is also called otitis media with effusion or serous otitis media. When the auditory tube (or Eustachian tube), which normally drains into the back of the throat, becomes clogged or obstructed, the ear can fill up with fluid. This occurs most often in children younger than age two, but it can also occur in adults. Otitis media may have no symptoms, and it is frequently undiagnosed. So what can you do to avoid it?

Toddler coughing in bed close up
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Prevent Colds and Infections

To prevent otitis media, we first must understand the conditions that cause the Eustachian tubes to become blocked. Otitis media often occurs after a cold or other upper respiratory infection, when the Eustachian tubes become blocked by mucus. You can help prevent colds by:

  • washing your and your children's hands frequently with soap and water
  • staying at home when you're sick and keeping children out of school or daycare when they're sick
  • disinfecting toys, doorknobs, and other surfaces that are frequently touched
  • practicing good habits like coughing or sneezing into a tissue and disposing of it, or coughing and sneezing into your upper shirtsleeve to cover your mouth and nose
  • having an annual flu shot.

When you get a cold or other illness, it's important to see your healthcare provider and get treatment. In the case of a bacterial infection such as strep, your healthcare provider can get you started on necessary antibiotics.

Manage Allergy Symptoms

Allergies may also cause otitis media. If you or your child has allergies, work closely with your healthcare provider to manage the symptoms. Failing to treat your allergies can lead to long-term problems that can contribute to otitis media, such as chronic sinusitis and anatomical obstructions like nasal polyps.

Other Prevention Tips

Other ways to prevent otitis media include:

  • avoiding secondhand smoke
  • propping up your infant/small child while they are drinking
  • elevating your upper body while lying down to allow Eustachian tubes to drain better

Some individuals are more prone to otitis media because of their anatomy (for example, the size and angle of their Eustachian tubes in relation to other structures). However, conscientious attention to the tips listed above may help you avoid having this problem.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Common colds: protect yourself and others. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  2. Is your sore throat strep? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  3. Varshney J, Varshney H. Allergic rhinitis: an overview. Indian J Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2015;67(2):143-9. doi:10.1007/s12070-015-0828-5

Additional Reading

By Kristin Hayes, RN
Kristin Hayes, RN, is a registered nurse specializing in ear, nose, and throat disorders for both adults and children.