Ear drops that just contain steroids may calm down the swelling in your ear canal and stop the pain. This may be all you need, especially if you've got eczema in your ear. Eczema can cause your ear to become inflamed and swollen, even though you don't have an infection. You will need a prescription from your doctor for these treatments.
One good-quality study of 60 people showed that people who used ear drops containing a steroid called budesonide were more likely to be cured after 10 days than people who used dummy (placebo) ear drops. 
But we don't know if steroid ear drops work better than antibiotic ear drops, because we didn't find any good research on this.
Budesonide is not available as ear drops in the UK. But there are other steroids that are used on their own in ear drops and are available in the UK: betamethasone (brand name Betnesol) and prednisolone (Predsol).
Eczema is a very itchy rash. It may be dark and bumpy and release fluid. Scratching makes it worse. You can get eczema anywhere on your body, but it is most common on the wrists, the insides of the elbows and the backs of the knees. If you have asthma or allergies you are more likely to get eczema than someone who doesn't have these conditions.
Inflammation is when your skin or some other part of your body becomes red, swollen, hot, and sore. Inflammation happens because your body is trying to protect you from germs, from something that's in your body and could harm you (like a splinter) or from things that cause allergies (these things are called allergens). Inflammation is one of the ways in which your body heals an infection or an injury.
A placebo is a 'pretend' or dummy treatment that contains no active substances. A placebo is often given to half the people taking part in medical research trials, for comparison with the 'real' treatment. It is made to look and taste identical to the drug treatment being tested, so that people in the studies do not know if they are getting the placebo or the 'real' treatment. Researchers often talk about the 'placebo effect'. This is where patients feel better after having a placebo treatment because they expect to feel better. Tests may indicate that they actually are better. In the same way, people can also get side effects after having a placebo treatment. Drug treatments can also have a 'placebo effect'. This is why, to get a true picture of how well a drug works, it is important to compare it against a placebo treatment.
Steroids are a type of chemical. Your body naturally produces steroids, which play a part in many of its processes. For example, steroids are involved in how your immune system, reproductive system and metabolism work. Steroids can also be given as medicines and are used for a number of different conditions: including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis and eczema. Corticosteroids are not the same as the steroids used by some body builders and athletes. Those steroids are called 'anabolic steroids'.
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