If you've got something in your ear, don't probe it-you may drive the object deeper and damage the eardrum. Seek medical help.
If it's an insect, put your head on one side and float it out by pouring warm olive or baby oil gently into the ear.
For temporary relief, take paracetamol or aspirin and lie with your head raised and your ear resting on a hot-water bottle or hot compress. Give children under 12 a liquid painkiller such as Calpol. Keep any fever down with tepid sponging and cool drinks, and remove extra clothing and bedclothes.
Call a doctor if your baby is crying constantly and rubbing its earlobe; if the ache is associated with a high fever; if a child is inconsolable despite regular doses of painkiller; if the ache continues after 4 to 8 hours' rest; if there is a discharge from the ear; or if the ear aches after flying, diving or a respiratory illness.
If earache persists but your doctor finds that your ears are normal, see your dentist. Sometimes toothache is 'referred' to the ears.
Never probe your ear canal with anything smaller than a clean fingertip. If wax builds up, lie on your side and put a few drops of warm olive oil in your ear. Drain your ear after 15 minutes - the softened wax should work its way out.
Ringing in the ears
Ask your doctor to check for earwax buildup.
Eliminate caffeine and aspirin.
Avoid loud noises.
If the ringing persists for more than a week, see a doctor.
Water in the ear
To get rid of water, gently clap the heel of your hand against the side of your head and tip it to the affected side. The water will drain out naturally.
Avoid travelling by air if you have a cold, flu or allergy; you may develop painful ear or sinus problems. If you must fly, take an oral decongestant an hour before takeoff and landing, or use a nasal spray before and during descent.
If your ears start to pop or you get an earache, try to swallow, chew gum, suck on a boiled sweet, sip liquid or yawn. Don't sleep during takeoff and landing; you won't swallow often enough to keep your ears clear.
For babies, nursing or sucking a bottle or dummy will help, especially during ascent and descent.
To prevent infection, swab newly pierced earlobes with surgical spirit twice a day. Apply an over-the-counter antiseptic ointment with a cotton bud nightly.
To avoid an allergic reaction, make sure the posts are gold or surgical steel.