Ear infections are a common problem that can cause serious complications without proper care. It’s important to know how to recognize the ear infection symptoms, so that you can seek medical care for it. This helps lower the risk of complications, such as eardrum ruptures, a more widespread infection and hearing problems.
Causes of Ear Infections
Ear infections occur when a virus or bacteria enter the outer or inner part of the ear, resulting in inflammation. This can happen when you have an illness that affects your throat, nasal passages and other nearby areas, such as a common cold or the flu. Having swelling in your adenoids or your eustachian tubes that connect to your ears can cause fluid to build up in your ear, leading to an infection. Children have a higher risk of getting these infections, but they can occur in adults.
Symptoms of Ear Infections
Ear infection symptoms tend to appear suddenly and can get worse over time, especially without medical care if they’re caused by bacteria. The main signs of an ear infection that affects the outer part of the ear include pain in the affected area, redness and swelling. Middle ear infections, which occur when the infection is deeper in the ear, include pain, fluid drainage from the affected ear, trouble hearing and a feeling of fullness inside the ear. When ear infections occur in the inner ear, they can cause dizziness, vomiting and nausea.
Symptoms of ear infections can also include a fever and headaches in some individuals. When children have an ear infection, they might pull at their ear, become more irritable, lose their appetite and cry more frequently due to discomfort.
When to Seek Medical Care
If you or your child show signs of an ear infection, you should seek medical care if these symptoms last longer than 24 hours or if the pain becomes severe. If you have a child younger than 6 months old who is showing ear infection symptoms, you should see your pediatrician. You should also seek medical care if you or your child have discharge coming out of the affected ear, since this is typically a clear sign of an ear infection that needs to be treated.
Ear Infection Treatment
Treatment for an ear infection depends on the cause. Viral infections clear up on their own, but you can use a warm compress on your ear or take over-the-counter pain medication to ease your symptoms. Ask your child’s pediatrician about proper care for ear infections in young children. If you have a bacterial ear infection, you might need treatment with a course of antibiotics to lower the risk of complications.