How Are Ear Infections Treated
To treat an ear infection, health care providers consider many things, including:
- the type and severity of the ear infection
- how often the child has ear infections
- how long this infection has lasted
- the child’s age and any risk factors
- whether the infection affects hearing
The type of otitis affects treatment options. Not all kinds need to be treated with antibiotics. Because most ear infections can clear on their own, many doctors take a “wait-and-see” approach. Kids will get medicine for pain relief without antibiotics for a few days to see if the infection gets better.
Antibiotics aren’t routinely prescribed because they:
- won’t help an infection caused by a virus
- won’t get rid of middle ear fluid
- can cause side effects
- usually don’t relieve pain in the first 24 hours and have only a minimal effect after that
Also, overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which are much harder to treat.
If a doctor does prescribe antibiotics, a 10-day course is usually recommended. Kids age 6 and older who don’t have a severe infection might take a shortened course for 5 to 7 days.
Some children, such as those with recurrent infections and those with lasting hearing loss or speech delay, may need ear tube surgery. An ear, nose, and throat doctor will surgically insert tubes that let fluid drain from the middle ear. This helps equalize the pressure in the ear.
Types Of Ear Infections
The most common type of ear infection is called acute otitis media .
AOM is more common in children because they have smaller eustachian tubes. Located between the middle ear and upper throat, these tubes are responsible for fluid drainage.
If this fluid doesnt drain, a buildup and infection may occur. Fluid trapped in the middle ear behind your eardrum may also cause:
Other common infections
Other common types of ear infections include:
- Otitis media with effusion . The infection has cleared up, but fluid may still be stuck in the middle ear.
- Chronic otitis media with effusion . Fluid continues to build up on a recurring basis despite the lack of infection. This chronic condition can lead to serious side effects, such as hearing loss .
- Swimmers ear : occurs in the outer ear when water becomes trapped and promotes bacterial growth in the ear canal.
Why Are Children More Likely Than Adults To Get Ear Infections
There are several reasons why children are more likely than adults to get ear infections.
Eustachian tubes are smaller and more level in children than they are in adults. This makes it difficult for fluid to drain out of the ear, even under normal conditions. If the eustachian tubes are swollen or blocked with mucus due to a cold or other respiratory illness, fluid may not be able to drain.
A childs immune system isnt as effective as an adults because its still developing. This makes it harder for children to fight infections.
As part of the immune system, the adenoids respond to bacteria passing through the nose and mouth. Sometimes bacteria get trapped in the adenoids, causing a chronic infection that can then pass on to the eustachian tubes and the middle ear.
How Long Will It Take My Child To Get Better
Your child should start feeling better within a few days after visiting the doctor. If its been several days and your child still seems sick, call your doctor. Your child might need a different antibiotic. Once the infection clears, fluid may still remain in the middle ear but usually disappears within three to six weeks.
Recommended Reading: Urinary Tract Infection Natural Medicine
Home Remedies For Ear Pain
Before antibiotics, parents used home remedies to treat the pain of ear infections. Now, with current concern over antibiotic overuse, many of these simple remedies are again popular:
- Parents can press a warm water bottle or warm bag of salt against the ear. Such old-fashioned remedies may help to ease ear pain.
- Due to the high risk of burns, ear candles should not be used to remove wax from ears. These candles are not safe or effective for treatment of ear infections or other ear conditions.
- Researchers are studying the protective value of probiotics especially lactobacilli strains such as acidophilus. But it is important not to give your child any herbal remedies or dietary supplements without consulting with the pediatrician.
Recommended Reading: Best Antibiotic For Tooth Or Gum Infection
How K Health Can Help
Did you know you can access online urgent care with K Health?
Check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed, text with a healthcare provider in minutes.
K Healths AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and is based on 20 years of clinical data.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Causes Of Ear Infection In Adults
Outer Ear Infection Causes
Swimmer’s ear is frequently caused by bacteria that is usually found in soil and water. Viral or fungal infections are less common. The following conditions can provoke the bacterial growth in your ear:
- Excess moisture in the ear
- Various sensitivity reactions
- Abrasions or scratches in the ear canal
Middle Ear Infection Causes
Most common causes of the middle ear infection are related to swollen or blocked Eustachian tubes, promoting fluids to build up in the middle ear. Examples of such causes are:
- Colds, flu, and sinus infections
- Smoking or inhalation of irritants
- Overgrown or infected adenoids
You May Like: Fastest Way To Cure A Bladder Infection
What Are The Types Of Ototopical Antibiotics
Ototopical antibiotics are available in three forms:
Powders are not approved by FDA, but regionally compounded powders have been in use for years. Powders have the advantage of adhering to and remaining for a long time in moist surfaces. Powders are prepared with several components.
Two preparations of powders used are:
- Gold dust: comprised of chloramphenicol, sulfanilamide and hydrocortisone
- Mastoid powder: comprised of ciprofloxacin, clotrimazole, dexamethasone and boric acid
Creams and ointments
Creams and antibiotics are applied only for bacterial and fungal infections in the external ear and auditory canal, usually with a single dose. Following are some of the antibiotic ointments and creams used for external ear infections:
How Much Does Dog Ear Infection Medicine Cost
Dog ear infections are not only painful for your dog but they can prove dangerous. Infections are classified as either Otitis Externa, Otitis Media, or Otitis Interna, according to whether they are in the outer, middle, or inner ear respectively. Outer ear infections are painful and they need attention because if they progress to inner ear infections they can lead to deafness and even neurological damage.
Treatment costs vary according to the type and severity of infection, as well as other factors, but tends to range between $50 and $250 for the whole treatment.
Also Check: Oregano Oil For Tooth Infection
What Are The Harms Of Fluid Buildup In Your Ears Or Repeated Or Ongoing Ear Infections
Most ear infections dont cause long-term problems, but when they do happen, complications can include:
- Loss of hearing: Some mild, temporary hearing loss usually occurs during an ear infection. Ongoing infections, infections that repeatedly occur, damage to internal structures in the ear from a buildup of fluid can cause more significant hearing loss.
- Delayed speech and language development: Children need to hear to learn language and develop speech. Muffled hearing for any length of time or loss of hearing can significantly delay or hamper development.
- Tear in the eardrum: A tear can develop in the eardrum from pressure from the long-lasting presence of fluid in the middle ear. About 5% to 10% of children with an ear infection develop a small tear in their eardrum. If the tear doesnt heal on its own, surgery may be needed. If you have drainage/discharge from your ear, do not place anything into your ear canal. Doing so can be dangerous if there is an accident with the item touching the ear drum.
- Spread of the infection: Infection that doesnt go away on its own, is untreated or is not fully resolved with treatment may spread beyond the ear. Infection can damage the nearby mastoid bone . On rare occasions, infection can spread to the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord and cause meningitis.
In Some Cases: Surgery
Ear infections often go away with time or with the help of antibiotics. However, some people may experience recurrent ear infections and fluid buildup, or have ear infections that wont heal for months.
In children, these issues can lead to hearing loss, behavioral issues, and speech development delays.
In these instances, a surgery called a tympanoplasty may help. In this procedure, a doctor inserts tiny tubes, called tympanostomy tubes or grommets, into the eardrum. These tubes reduce the occurrence of ear infections and allow drainage of excess fluids.
The procedure is very common and poses minimal risks. An ear tube insertion is more common for children, who tend to suffer ear infections more often than adults.
Home treatments for ear infections may be considered for mild cases in adults only.
Read Also: Can Ear Infection Go Away On Its Own
Preventing Recurring Ear Infections
To help prevent any infection, a healthy body including a healthy gut is optimal. If breastfeeding is possible, it is one of the best preventative options, since it helps line the gut with beneficial bacteria. Introducing formula in the first six months of life is associated with more ear infections in early childhood . For kids of all ages, feeding them other prebiotics and probiotics, first in very small doses, will also improve gut health over time.
Another way to boost health is removing toxins from the childs diet, including processed foods, refined grains and sugars, industrial seed oils, and pesticide residues. If these recommendations sound familiar, it is because they are some of the first steps toward a Paleo diet and lifestyle, which can have a profound impact on overall well-being. Often children with food allergies are more susceptible to ear infections , perhaps because the immune system is already overly activated and cannot properly fight additional infections. Removing common allergens such as gluten, soy, dairy, and peanuts from the childs diet also may help.
Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, in a nasal spray can help ward off infections of the ear, nose, and throat . This compound acts to break down the tough buildup of bacteria, called biofilm, that can stagnate in the nasal passageways. If you have a patient prone to chronic ear infections, a regimen of xylitol nasal spray, such as Xlear Nasal Spray, is worth exploring .
How Can I Prevent Future Ear Infections
Ear infections generally come after another illness caused by viruses or bacteria. Anything you can do to keep from getting sick or boost your immune system, should also help reduce your chance of ear infections. Here are ways to keep yourself and your family healthy:
Ear infection? Were ready to help.
Don’t Miss: Antibiotics For Spider Bite Infection
What Is The Treatment For Ear Infections
Medications used to treat ear infections include:
- Pseudoephedrine to ease ear pressure
- Antibiotic ear drops for infections of the ear canal
- Steroid ear drops for infections of the ear canal
- Oral antibiotics for infections of the middle ear , and severe infections of the outer ear
For mild cases of ear infection, doctors often recommend watching and waiting before starting use of antibiotics, as many cases will go away on their own. Consult your childs pediatrician before giving any over-the-counter medications to your child.
Home remedies to relieve symptoms include:
- Warm compresses applied to the area to help soothe pain
- Over-the-counter pain eardrops
Do Ear Infections Clear Up On Their Own
Some ear infections may clear on their own. Middle ear infections are often cured by the bodys immune system when left alone. However, inner and outer infections may require medication. If patients are experiencing more than just the common symptoms of ear infections then they should seek medical attention.
Recommended Reading: My Tooth Is Infected And My Face Is Swollen
Who Shouldn’t Use Ear Drops
Ear drops can be helpful when treating an ear infection, but there are times when you shouldnt use them. For example, if you or your child has a perforated eardrum, you should avoid the use of certain ototoxic ear drops because fluid from the drops can get deep into the ear and cause more problems.
What Research Is Being Done On Middle Ear Infections
Researchers sponsored by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders are exploring many areas to improve the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of middle ear infections. For example, finding better ways to predict which children are at higher risk of developing an ear infection could lead to successful prevention tactics.
Another area that needs exploration is why some children have more ear infections than others. For example, Native American and Hispanic children have more infections than do children in other ethnic groups. What kinds of preventive measures could be taken to lower the risks?
Doctors also are beginning to learn more about what happens in the ears of children who have recurring ear infections. They have identified colonies of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, called biofilms, that are present in the middle ears of most children with chronic ear infections. Understanding how to attack and kill these biofilms would be one way to successfully treat chronic ear infections and avoid surgery.
Understanding the impact that ear infections have on a childs speech and language development is another important area of study. Creating more accurate methods to diagnose middle ear infections would help doctors prescribe more targeted treatments. Researchers also are evaluating drugs currently being used to treat ear infections, and developing new, more effective and easier ways to administer medicines.
Recommended Reading: How To Fix A Tooth Infection
How To Use Ear Drops Solution
Preparation before Using Ear drops Solutions to cure ear ache
This is the part of using the medicines which are commonly ignored. But preparing properly before using these ear drops can ensure that the medicines work more effectively.
Start by reading about the product instructions carefully including the side effects that can occur. While reading the regulations, also check the expiration date. Do not put expired ear drops.
Wash your hands properly with soap and water before administering the eardrops.
Procedure of using Ear drops Solution in Adults
Here is an instruction manual of administering the ear drops in children.
- To avoid spilling the ear drops on the floor or bed, place a clean towel folded in half.
- Lay your head on the towel such that the affected ear faces upwards. You can ask someone to keep the head steady.
- Now comes the most important part. Putting the ear drops inside the ear. Ask someone to gently pull the earlobe up and down to straighten the auditory tube. Put the prescribed number of eardrops.
- Immediately close the ear by gently pushing on the flap of the ear or put a cotton ball. This prevents the drops from spilling.
- Make sure that you stay in this position for a couple of minutes.
For putting ear drops in children, you might want additional help. One person can comfort the child while the other person can put the ear drops. You can also explain your child about what exactly is going to happen to ease out their fear.
Should You Prescribe Antibiotics For Ear Infections
Ear infections are common in young children and infants. Seeing a miserable child with an anxious parent makes us want to DO something to helpsuch as prescribing antibiotics. But is that the best course of action? Read on to find out why antibiotics shouldnt be used for the majority of ear infections, and what to do instead.
You May Like: Who To Go To For Eye Infection
How Do I Know If My Child Has An Ear Infection
Older children will usually complain of an earache. While younger children might not be able to say they have an earache, they may:
- have an unexplained fever,
- tug or pull at their ears, or
- have trouble hearing quiet sounds.
Some children with an ear infection may also have fluid draining from the ear.
How Do Ear Infections Happen
A middle ear infection usually happens because of swelling in one or both of the eustachian tubes . The tubes let mucus drain from the middle ear into the throat.
A cold, throat infection, acid reflux, or allergies can make the eustachian tubes swell. This blocks the mucus from draining. Then, or grow in the mucus and make pus, which builds up in the middle ear.
When doctors refer to an ear infection, they usually mean otitis media rather than swimmer’s ear . Otitis media with effusion is when noninfected fluid builds up in the ear. It might not cause symptoms, but in some kids, the fluid creates a sensation of ear fullness or “popping.”
Don’t Miss: Can You Go To Urgent Care For A Tooth Infection
Chronic Suppurative Otitis Media
In some severe cases after eardrum rupture, perforation may lead to ongoing discharge, which is pus-like. This drainage is often called otorrhea. When this happens, the bacteria involved are most commonly P. aeruginosa or S. aureus. This infection may also spread into the mastoid bone and usually requires injectable antibiotic treatment and sometimes surgery.
Should My Child See Her Pediatrician For An Ear Infection
In some cases with older babies and toddlers, mild symptoms may go away on their own. But if your child is under 6 months old, has a high fever, severe pain, drainage or swelling in the ear, its time to call your pediatrician. However, your doctor wont necessarily prescribe antibiotics right away. Ear infections are caused by both bacteria and viruses, so antibiotics arent always the solution. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, there are several reasons why doctors dont prescribe antibiotics for every ear infection:
- Antibiotics dont work for ear infections caused by viruses.
- Antibiotics dont help the pain associated with ear infections
- Infections from both viruses and bacteria often disappear without antibiotics in a few days, especially in children over two years old.
- Physicians are keenly aware that the overprescription of antibiotics makes vital medicines less effective, so we work hard to use them only when truly necessary. In many cases, your doctor will watch the infection for a few days to see if it goes away on its own.
You May Like: Common Prescription For Sinus Infection