Should I Use Antibiotics For An Ear Infection
Antibiotics are a medicine prescribed by your doctor. If youre dealing with an ear infection caused by bacteria, youll likely need antibiotics. They are the best way of quickly getting rid of a bacterial infection and preventing it from spreading to other parts of the body.
The catch is that antibiotics dont work against viruses if you use antibiotics on a viral ear infection, it can actually make the infection worse. Overuse of antibiotics can lead to a condition called antibiotic resistance, which means that the medicine becomes less effective at fighting off bacteria.
Thats why doctors are careful about using antibiotics wisely and may not immediately prescribe them for ear infections.
Can I Treat An Ear Infection At Home
Swimmers ear home treatment
An outer ear infection may take several days to heal, but the pain usually is gone within one week. Moreover, the warmer the water, the higher the likelihood of getting swimmers ear, for example, people who swim in the summer are more likely to develop an outer ear infection than wintertime surfers.
Middle ear infection home treatment
Numerous studies have shown that viruses cause middle ear infections. Pain management for ear pain for two or three days will allow the bodys natural immune system to fight and cure the infection, much like the common cold. However, some people with middle ear infections may need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional for medical treatment.
Inner ear infection and labyrinthitis home treatment
Inner ear infections and labyrinthitis usually treat inner ear infections in adults and children.
Earaches And Ear Infections
Earaches and ear infections can have a variety of causesviral, bacterial and fungaland can affect different parts of the ear. Common infections include inner ear, middle ear and outer ear infections .
Ear infections also can be caused by scratching the ear canal when cleaning their ear, especially if a cotton-tipped applicator or dangerously sharp small object, such as a hair clip, is used. In other cases, a middle ear infection can cause an external infection to develop through the draining of pus into the ear canal through a hole in the eardrum.
Infections of the inner ear usually result from viral illnesses, such as influenza, and can cause vertigo , dizziness, nausea, imbalance, difficulty concentrating, tinnitus , reduced hearing and other symptoms. These symptoms also may be caused by head injuries, drug reactions, allergies, underlying medical disorders or aging. If you have these symptoms, you should see a physician evaluation to make the diagnosis and to begin appropriate treatment.
If the symptoms are caused by a virus, the infection usually improves on its own. However, a doctor may recommend taking prescription or over-the-counter anti-nausea medications or receiving an injection to control the symptoms. Recurrent symptoms may indicate Menieres disease, a disorder in which fluid builds up in the inner ear and causes vertigo and balance problems.
Symptoms of middle ear infections include:
Symptoms of swimmers ear include:
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What Can I Do To Prevent Ear Infections
Middle ear infections are often a result of a simple cold. While its hard to prevent colds, good hygiene can help lower your chance of catching one.
Keep your child away from cigarette smoke. Exposure to cigarette smoke increases your childs risk of ear infections.
If your child keeps getting ear infections, they may need grommets put in their ears to prevent recurring infection.
Your risk of an outer ear infection may be reduced by:
- ensuring that you or your child drain water out of your ears after swimming
- using ear plugs for swimming if you are prone to these infections
- not putting anything into your ear, not even a cotton bud, even if your ear feels blocked or painful
How Is An Ear Infection Treated
- If a child doesnt have too much discomfort or a high fever, the doctor will likely wait 24 to 48 hours to see if the ear infection gets better on its own. If the child does not improve or gets worse, contact the doctor again.
- You childs doctor will prescribe antibiotics if:
- your child is moderately to severely ill with a high fever ,
- your child has severe pain,
- the condition has not improved for 48 hours, or
- the ear canal has new fluid.
For an uncomplicated ear infection, children between 6 months and 2 years usually take an antibiotic for 10 days. Children over 2 years of age will take an antibiotic for 5 days.
The doctor might suggest acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the childs pain. Only give ibuprofen if your child is drinking reasonably well. Do not give ibuprofen to babies under 6 months old without first talking to your doctor.
Do not give over-the-counter medications to babies and children under 6 years without first talking to your doctor. The only exceptions are medications used to treat fever, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Children usually feel better within 1 day of starting an antibiotic, but make sure to finish it. Your doctor might want to see your child again to be sure the infection has cleared up completely. Fluid can remain in the middle ear without inflammation for a few weeks.
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What Other Types Of Ear Infections Affect Adults
Dr. Wang: A middle ear infection, or otitis media, is most frequently associated with children, but adults get them as well. This type of ear infection happens when viruses or bacteria get into the middle ear the space behind the eardrum. The middle ear fills with pus or infected fluid. The pus pushes on the eardrum, which can be very painful. Middle ear infections are caused by swelling in one or both of the Eustachian tubes. The Eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the throat and act as release valves to equalize pressure within the middle ear. When that process is interfered with, that’s when infections can develop.
How Do Cotton Swabs Cause Outer Ear Infections
Dr. Wang: Earwax is a natural way for your body to trap and slow the growth of bacteria that may have entered your ear. When you apply cotton swabs, you often wind up pushing earwax further into the ear canal. This impacted wax can then trap water or moisture deep in the canal, setting you up for an infection.
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How Are Middle Ear Infections Treated
Dr. Wang: Frontline treatment for middle ear infections is a course of oral antibiotics. Sometimes steroids can be added if the pain is severe, which doesn’t help resolve the infection any faster but can reduce the inflammation and pressure causing the pain. If you’ve been on standard treatments for several days but your ear still aches or feels full, you should be referred to an ENT, who may recommend different medications or elect to lance the eardrum to remove the fluid. If you keep getting middle ear infections, you may have to have ear tubes placed in your ears, just like we do with children.
What Causes A Middle
The middle ear connects to the throat by a canal called the eustachiantube. This tube helps even out the pressure between the outer ear and theinner ear. A cold or allergy can irritate the tube or cause the area aroundit to swell. This can keep fluid from draining from the middle ear. Thefluid builds up behind the eardrum. Bacteria and viruses can grow in thisfluid. The bacteria and viruses cause the middle-ear infection.
How Can I Prevent Ear Infections
The CDC offers several tips for reducing the risk factors that contribute to ear infections. These include:
- Staying up to date on childhood vaccines including the pneumococcal vaccine that helps protect against the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria that can cause ear infections and the flu vaccine.
- Frequent handwashing by parents and caregivers
- Breastfeeding until at least 6 months passes on moms immunity to babies
- Avoid exposing your child to secondhand smoke
Babys first sick visit: its never fun, sometimes scary and often related to an ear infection. But dont worry if your pediatrician sends you home empty-handed at first. At Loudoun Pediatric Associates, well make sure your child gets what she needs in the case of an ear infection, whether its a round of antibiotics or a few days of rest and watchful waiting. Sometimes we need an antibiotic to give those germs the boot, but in other cases rest, fluids and lots of snuggles are the best prescription.
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When To See A Doctor
If your childâs symptoms last for more than one day, or if ear pain is severe, you should talk to a doctor. Also call your doctor if you observe bloody fluid or pus draining from the ear. Lastly, call a doctor if your child who is less than six months old is showing symptoms of an ear infection.
Your doctor can prescribe antibiotics that usually treat the infection quickly.
Leaving a severe infection untreated can cause hearing problems or other complications. Mild hearing loss is possible while an infection is present, but if the infection doesnât disappear or keeps coming back, permanent hearing loss is possible. Untreated infections can also lead to dangerous spreading of the infection to nearby body parts.
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Sinus Infection Treatment At Home
It isnt possible for you to tell at home if sinusitis is caused by a bacteria, virus or fungus, but there are some steps you can take to help relieve sinus infections symptoms. They include:
Moisturizing the room air with a humidifier or vaporizer
Increasing your fluid intake to ensure you are well hydrated
Using saline sprays or nasal irrigations
Using nasal spray decongestants for 2 or 3 days at the most
Applying warm compresses to your face to help relieve pain and pressure
Sleeping with your head elevated. If sleeping on a pile of pillows isnt comfortable, place blocks under the two legs at the head of your bed to elevate it.
Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
A Pharmacist Can Help With An Ear Infection
Speak to a pharmacist if you think you have an outer ear infection.
They can recommend acidic eardrops to help stop bacteria or fungus spreading.
- a long-term medical condition such as diabetes or a heart, lung, kidney or neurological disease
- a weakened immune system because of chemotherapy, for example
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Who Is At Higher Risk For Ear Infections
- Children less than 5 years old, because they have shorter eustachian tubes.
- Children who attend daycare, because they tend to have more colds.
- Children with allergies.
- Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke. Smoke causes inflammation of the eustachian tube, making ear infections more likely.
- Children who were not breastfed. Breast milk has antibodies that help fight infections.
- Babies who are being bottle-fed, especially if they swallow milk while lying too flat. Milk can enter the eustachian tube and cause inflammation, which increases the risk of an ear infection. Children should be held upright while drinking a bottle. When they are old enough to hold their own bottle well, they should be taught to drink from a regular cup and no longer given a bottle.
- Children with cleft palates, as their eustachian tubes are often inflamed.
- Children of First Nations and Inuit descent, though its not clear why.
- Children with Down syndrome.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
It helps to see a doctor if the symptoms are severe or unusual. If the problem is related to a tight foreskin, circumcision may be recommended.
If you decide to self treat and OTC treatments dont work, or the yeast infection recurs, its important to see a doctor for an evaluation.
There may be an underlying cause for the infection, including undiagnosed diabetes, an underactive thyroid , HIV, or penile cancer.
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Diagnosing A Yeast Infection: Signs To Look For
Once a woman has had a yeast infection, its usually easier for her to identify another one when symptoms first appear. Common symptoms can include:
- Thick, white discharge
- Burning feeling especially when peeing or having sex
- Vaginal pain, redness and swelling
Sometimes there are no obvious symptoms, so its important to know what your bodys normal healthy state is. With a yeast infection, there is typically no odor. If youre not sure if you have an infection, you can use the MONISTAT® Symptom Checker to help guide you. Its just a few questions and should take you less than 1 minute to complete.
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Why Does My Ear Hurt
One common source of earache in children is ear infection. Ear infections occur more commonly in children as it is harder for fluid to properly drain out of their eustachian tubes. This can be the result of swimmers ear or a recent cold or upper respiratory illness. Another common cause of ear pain in children is having a foreign object lodged in their ear tube.
While ear infections can affect adults as well, it is less common for them to cause ear pain. Adult ears are exposed to more factors that may damage the eardrum through exposure to sudden loud noises, drastic changes in air pressure when in an airplane, head trauma or jaw injury. The latter causes ear pain when the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, is injured.
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When Should I See A Doctor About A Fungal Ear Infection
Fungal ear infections usually cause a fair amount of discomfort and discharge so most people want to see a doctor soon after the condition starts. There are some eardrops available from pharmacies, but the best they can do is reduce the inflammation a bit. In fungal infections, they don’t usually have much effect.
See a doctor sooner rather than later if:
- You are in a lot of pain.
- Your ear produces a lot of discharge.
- You feel generally unwell or develop unusual symptoms such as dizziness.
- You have a high temperature.
- The outer part of your ear looks very mucky.
- Your hearing becomes muffled.
- You’ve bought some treatment from the chemist which hasn’t worked.
How Is An Ear Infection Diagnosed
Doctors diagnose ear infections by looking at the ear drum with a special light called an otoscope. They look for fluid in the middle ear, at the colour and position of the ear drum, and monitor the pressure in the middle ear. Common viral infections can make the ear drum look red, but antibiotics are not needed.
When Should I See A Doctor
You should visit your doctor if:
- you or your child is in pain
- there is discharge from your or your child’s ear
- you or your child is unwell or vomiting or has a fever
- you or your child can’t hear properly
- your child gets repeated ear infections
Go to your nearest emergency department if there is redness, pain or swelling of the bone behind the ear or if the ear is pushed forward. This could be a sign of a serious infection called mastoiditis.
When Do You Need To See A Doctor
You can treat an ear ache at home with painkillers and taking steps such as keeping the ear dry or sitting up right to help relieve pressure in the ear. If an ear ache is accompanied by dizziness, a serious headache, swelling around the ear or a dropping of the facial muscles on one side of the face then it may be time to seek medical treatment. A persistent fever of 104ºF or higher in children is a clear sign that medical attention is necessary. Most ear aches will improve in a couple of days if that doesnt happen then you may need medical help.
Ear ache is a condition that should be treated cautiously and medical attention sought where necessary.
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How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting An Ear Infection
- Wash your childs hands and your own often to keep germs away.
- If possible, breastfeed your baby.
- Avoid bottle-feeding your baby when they are lying down. Never put your baby to bed with a bottle.
- Transition your baby from a bottle to a cup by 1 year of age.
- Dont smoke, and keep your child away from any second-hand smoke. Exposure to smoke can increase the risk of ear infections.
- Ensure your child gets the pneumococcal vaccine .
- Ensure your child gets a flu shot every year.
- If your child has had many ear infections, try reducing the use of pacifiers . Using a pacifier may increase the risk of repeated ear infections.
Earaches In Adults: What You Need To Know
Been a while since you woke up with a sharp, stabbing earache? Such a distant memory you don’t even know where to find a heating pad like the one your mom used to carefully apply to the side of your face?
Consider yourself lucky but not necessarily off the hook. Although ear infections are more common among children, some 20% occur in adults. Bad news for those of us who thought we had outgrown that phase for good. But the good news is, for the most part, there are easy ways to fix the problem, and even easier ways to avoid the common mistakes that can land even the most responsible adults in the reclining chair of an ear, nose and throat doctor .
Luckily, Dr. Brian Wang, an ENT doctor at Houston Methodist, is here to answer all of our burning questions about the types of ear problems that most frequently occur in adults.