How To Get Your Ears Back To Normal As Fast As Possible
So, if air pressure is the culprit, your ears will usually return to normal in a day or two. If an ear infection is behind your blocked ears, you might have to wait until your body fights off the virus or bacteria at work . And that might take up to a week or two. Sinus infections have been known to last even longer.
Getting your ears back to normal as quickly as possible, then, will usually involve a bit of patience , and your expectations should be, well, variable.
Your first and most important job is to not make the situation any worse. When your ears start feeling blocked, you might be tempted to take out the cotton swab and start trying to manually clean things out. This can be an especially dangerous strategy . If you use a cotton swab, youre more likely to make things worse.
Diagnosis Of Ear Infections
Your physician will look into your ear with an otoscope, a medical instrument with a light on one end designed to get a better view inside the ear. Your doctor will look for the visual signs of ear infection, such as redness and inflammation.
To check for fluid buildup, a pneumatic otoscope, which blows air at the eardrum, will be used. If there is excessive fluid behind the eardrum, it will not move as it should when the air hits it.
In some cases, hearing tests may also be performed to assess any damage to the ear from the infection.
Different types of ear infections present with different symptoms, which can include:
- Inner ear infections: Hearing loss, ringing in the ears , dizziness, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting, and ear pain
- Middle ear infections: Fluid in the ear, ear pain, fever, a feeling of general illness, pressure in the ears, and hearing loss
- Outer ear infections: Inflammation of the ear canal, itching in the ear, ear pain, swelling of the ear canal, redness, and fluid draining from the ear
Ear Infection Doctor Discussion Guide
Children with ear infections, especially toddlers or infants, may not be able to describe their symptoms, but an ear infection will often present with the following signs:
- Tugging or pulling at their ears
- Fussing or crying
- Being clumsy and having balance issues
- Trouble hearing or responding to quiet noises
Is It Bad To Sleep With Clogged Ears
Sleeping upright with clogged ears is one of the best ways to prevent infection. If you sleep with your head on a pillow, however, you can expect ear pain to be more intense.
But again, if you are suffering ear pain, it might be time for you to go see a doctor. Make sure that you do not let your ear infection linger on for more than a week. If it has been two weeks and you still have problems, see a doctor right away.
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What Happens If An Ear Infection Is Left Untreated
Fluid buildup in the ear can be damaging even if theres no infection and may lead to a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss. So, its important to see the doctor if symptoms remain after finishing the antibiotics. Theyll likely want to take a look in your ear and learn more about your symptoms.
Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you see an ear, nose and throat doctor. The ENT doctor may recommend surgery to place small metal or plastic tubes in the ear canal to make it easier for the fluid to drain out. Your doctor may also recommend ear tube surgery for your child if they have recurrent ear infections.
How To Use Ear Drops
Prior to using ear drops, you should always read the instructions provided to you with your prescription. You can also speak to your pharmacist or doctor for advice on using them. The following instructions will help you use ear drops correctly.
- Lie down on a flat surface with a folded towel beneath your head and the affected ear facing the ceiling.
- Pull your earlobe up to straighten out the ear canal.
- Administer the appropriate number of drops into the ear.
- Push the ear flap gently to help ease the drops into the ear.
- Remain in this position for up to two minutes to ensure that the ear canal is fully coated with medicine.
- Have the child lie on the floor or bed with a towel beneath their head and their affected ear facing the ceiling.
- Hold their head still if they are squirming or fidgeting.
- Pull the earlobe out and down to straighten their ear canal..
- Administer the recommended number of drops
- Press on their ear flap or place a cotton ball gently into the ear and let it remain in position for several minutes to ensure that the medication coats the inside of their ear.
The process for infants is similar to children, but you can also cradle your infant while you administer the drops in an appropriate position that allows the medication to go into their ear properly.
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Who Gets A Fungal Ear Infection
Fungal infection of the ear is more common in people living in tropical and subtropical countries. Its also more common in people who do a lot of water sports such as SCUBA diving and surfing. It occurs more often in the summer than the winter.
About 1 in 8 people with infections of the outer part of the ear have fungal infections.
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When To See A Doctor
Ear infections can go away on their own in many cases, so a minor earache may not be a worry.
A doctor should typically be seen if symptoms have not improved within 3 days. If new symptoms occur, such as a fever or loss of balance, a doctor should be seen immediately.
Any sign of discharge coming from the ear would also require a visit to the doctor.
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Where Can I Find Additional Information About Ear Infections
The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, smell, taste, voice, speech, and language.
Use the following keywords to help you search for organizations that can answer questions and provide printed or electronic information on ear infections:
Don’t Let Your Ears Suffer Anymore
If you’ve ever had an ear infection, you know exactly what it feels like when your ears start to hurt. You’ll have heard people talk about how painful it can be, and the only thing that you can do is try to ignore it.
It doesn’t seem like it should be so difficult to unblock your ears, but we understand that it can be frustrating. At least now you can rest assured that you’ll be able to hear your loved ones again!
Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to protect your ears.
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When You Need Themand When You Dont
Many children get ear infections. The infections are usually in the middle ear behind the eardrum. They may be caused by bacteria or by a virus. Doctors often treat bacterial infections with antibiotics. Antibiotics are strong medicines that kill bacteria.
Infants and some babies and children do need antibiotics.
But using antibiotics too often can be harmful. Heres why:
In most cases, antibiotics are not needed.
- They do not work for ear infections caused by viruses.
- They do not help the pain.
- Usually, viral infections and many bacterial infections go away on their own in two to three days, especially in children who are over two years old.
First, call the doctor and treat the pain.
If you suspect your child has an ear infection, you should call the doctors office and describe the symptoms. Usually, your doctor should ask you to wait a few days before bringing your child in.
The main sign of an ear infection is pain, especially on the first day. Or, a child may have a fever.
Start by giving your child an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as:
- acetaminophen .
Antibiotics do not relieve pain in the first 24 hours. They only have a small effect on pain after that. So, pain relievers are an important treatment, and usually they are the only treatment needed.
When is treatment with antibiotics needed?If the infection is very painful and lasts more than a few days, chances are it is a bacterial infection.
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Who Gets Ear Infections
Ear infections are very common in babies and young children who are more likely to develop them than older children and adults. This is because their eustachian tubes dont function as well as in older children and adults the tubes are smaller, shorter and flatter .
As children grow older, their eustachian tubes work better and they get fewer colds. As a result, they outgrow the tendency to have ear infections at around 7 years of age. But, some children may have problems beyond this age.
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Check If It’s An Ear Infection
The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:
- discharge running out of the ear
- a feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear
- itching and irritation in and around the ear
- scaly skin in and around the ear
Young children and babies with an ear infection may also:
- rub or pull their ear
- not react to some sounds
- be irritable or restless
- be off their food
- keep losing their balance
Most ear infections clear up within 3 days, although sometimes symptoms can last up to a week.
If you, or your child, have a high temperature or you do not feel well enough to do your normal activities, try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people until you feel better.
|Inner ear infection||Middle ear infection||Outer ear infection|
|Can affect both children and adults||Usually affects children||Usually affects adults aged 45 to 75|
|Caused by viral or bacterial infections||Caused by viruses like colds and flu||Caused by something irritating the ear canal, such as eczema, water or wearing earplugs|
|Affects parts of the inner ear like the labyrinth and vestibular system, and can lead to labyrinthitis||Affects the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose||Affects the ear canal|
Why Dont Doctors Give Antibiotics For Middle Ear Infections Just In Case
Often, the infection will go away by itself after about 4 days. On average, children who take antibiotics have ear pain for only about 12 hours less than children who dont take antibiotics.
On the other hand, if antibiotics are prescribed, some children will have side effects. Using antibiotics can also cause bacteria to become resistant to them, meaning that the antibiotics might not work in future.
For these reasons, antibiotics are not generally recommended for middle ear infections unless your child is at risk of developing complications. For more information, speak to your doctor or visit the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care website.
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When Is Treatment With Antibiotics Necessary For An Ear Infection
If your child is in a lot of pain, and the symptoms last more than a few days, your pediatrician will likely recommend a round of antibiotics. According to the AAFP, here are some of the circumstances where antibiotics are likely to be prescribed for an ear infection:
- Infants six months or younger.
- Babies ages six months to two years, who have moderate to severe ear pain.
- Children 2 years or older who have a fever of 102.2 or higher.
- Children with another condition that could make an infection harder to heal, including cleft palate, Down syndrome, immune disorders and cochlear implants.
Antibiotics And Other Prescriptions
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , using antibiotics by mouth to treat ear infections may not help certain cases of middle ear infections. Antibiotics are not effective against outer ear and viral infections.
The main treatments for outer ear infections are manual cleanings and ear drops. The type of ear drop will depend on what is causing the infection. In the case of malignant otitis externa, intravenous antibiotics are the primary treatment.
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How Is An Ear Infection Treated
Treatment of ear infections depends on age, severity of the infection, the nature of the infection and if fluid remains in the middle ear for a long period of time.
Your healthcare provider will recommend medications to relieve you or your childs pain and fever. If the ear infection is mild, depending on the age of the child, your healthcare provider may choose to wait a few days to see if the infection goes away on its own before prescribing an antibiotic.
Antibiotics may be prescribed if bacteria are thought to be the cause of the ear infection. Your healthcare provider may want to wait up to three days before prescribing antibiotics to see if a mild infection clears up on its own when the child is older. If your or your childs ear infection is severe, antibiotics might be started right away.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended when to prescribe antibiotics and when to consider waiting before prescribing based on your childs age, severity of their infection, and your childs temperature. Their recommendations are shown in the table below.
American Academy of Pediatrics Treatment Guide for Acute Otitis Media
|in one or both ears||Mild for < 48 hours and temp < 102.2° F||Treat with antibiotic OR observe. If observe, start antibiotics if child worsens or doesnt improve within 48 to 72 hours of start of symptoms|
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Can Ear Infections Be Prevented
Some lifestyle choices can help protect kids from ear infections:
- Breastfeed infants for at least 6 months to help to prevent the development of early episodes of ear infections. If a baby is bottle-fed, hold the baby at an angle instead of lying the child down with the bottle.
- Prevent exposure to secondhand smoke, which can increase the number and severity of ear infections.
- Parents and kids should wash their hands well and often. This is one of the most important ways to stop the spread of germs that can cause colds and, therefore, ear infections.
- Keep children’s immunizations up to date because certain vaccines can help prevent ear infections.
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Do You Need Antibiotics
Your physician may recommend a watch-and-see approach rather than prescribing antibiotics right away. Typically, you will keep an eye on symptoms for three days to see if they improve. This approach usually is used for children whose ear infections cannot be definitively diagnosed or who are under the age of 2.
If the infection does not clear up, you will need antibiotics. In some cases, a doctor will write you a prescription just in case the infection does not clear up.
If the ear infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be prescribed because they do not work against viruses. Relieving symptoms while keeping an eye on the progression of the infection is the best course of treatment for a viral ear infection.
When To See Your Doctor
If you or your child is having symptoms of an acute ear infection, like ear pain, fever, and trouble hearing, you should see your doctor. Getting an acute ear infection treated promptly can help prevent a chronic ear infection. You should also see your doctor if:
- you have been diagnosed with an acute ear infection but its not responding to treatment recommended by your doctor
- you have been diagnosed with an acute ear infection and experience new symptoms, or if the symptoms get worse
- if your child shows symptoms of a recurring ear infection
Chronic ear infections require medical treatment. However, home treatments can help relieve your symptoms. Home treatments include:
- holding a warm or cool washcloth to the painful area
- using numbing ear drops
- taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen
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Infections In The Middle Ear
Infections in the middle ear often clear up on their own. Antibiotics make little difference to symptoms, including pain.
Antibiotics might be prescribed if:
- an ear infection does not start to get better after 3 days
- you or your child has any fluid coming out of their ear
- you or your child has an illness that means there’s a risk of complications, such as cystic fibrosis
They may also be prescribed if your child is less than 2 years old and has an infection in both ears.
How Can An Ear Infection Be Prevented
The simplest preventive measures include the following:
- Breastfeed an infant during the first 12 months of life
- For bottle-fed infants, never prop the bottle and wean off the bottle by 12 months
- Do not smoke around the baby, particularly in the household or the car
- Do not smoke during pregnancy
- Consider a private sitter or a smaller daycare, instead of a high volume daycare
- Avoid the introduction of solid foods in the first four months of life
- Administer the flu vaccine annually after six months of age
- Consider allergen avoidance and allergy shots in older children with chronic fluid
- Administer Prevnar vaccine to infants less than 24 months of age
More controversial preventive measures include the following:
- Avoid the pacifier
- Give the pneumococcal vaccine to infants and children older than 24 months who are unvaccinated with Prevnar and still getting recurrent ear infections
Ineffective measures include the following:
- Covering a childs head with a hat during the winter
- Using decongestants and antihistamines to prevent ear infections
- Chiropractic manipulation
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