Common Types Of Ear Infections
The two most common types of ear infections are in the middle ear or the outer ear.
An infection in the middle ear often follows a cold or respiratory problem. The infection moves to the ears through the eustachian tubes causing them to swell.
Infections in the outer ear sometimes referred to as swimmers ear are usually caused by an outside source such as water. If water sits in the ear for too long, it can cause the skin to break down and become a breeding ground for bacteria.
Seek medical attention immediately if you have nausea, dizziness, or vomiting along with ear pain. You may have a more serious issue with your inner ear.
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When Else Are Antibiotics Needed
Antibiotics can be the right treatment for kids who get a lot of ear infections. Their doctors might prescribe daily antibiotics to help prevent future infections. And younger children or those with more severe illness may need antibiotics right from the start.
The “wait-and-see” approach also might not apply to children with other concerns, such as cleft palate, genetic conditions such as Down syndrome, or other illnesses such as immune system disorders.
When Should I Return To My Healthcare Provider For A Follow
Your healthcare provider will let you know when you need to return for a follow-up visit. At that visit, you or your childs eardrum will be examined to be certain that the infection is going away. Your healthcare provider may also want to test you or your childs hearing.
Follow-up exams are very important, especially if the infection has caused a hole in the eardrum.
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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.Differences between middle and outer ear infections
|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 Do Kids Get Ear Infections
Kids get ear infections more than adults do for several reasons:
- Their shorter, more horizontal eustachian tubes let bacteria and viruses find their way into the middle ear more easily. The tubes are also narrower, so more likely to get blocked.
- Their adenoids, gland-like structures at the back of the throat, are larger and can interfere with the opening of the eustachian tubes.
Other things that can put kids at risk include secondhand smoke, bottle-feeding, and being around other kids in childcare. Ear infections are more common in boys than girls.
Ear infections are not contagious, but the colds that sometimes cause them can be. Infections are common during winter weather, when many people get upper respiratory tract infections or colds .
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When To Use And Avoid Antibiotics And Other Treatments To Try
A sinus infection can be treated with antibiotics when it is caused by bacteria. Sinus infections that have other causes, such as allergies or viruses, won’t benefit from antibiotics.
Most sinus infections don’t need antibiotics and will start to get better without treatment. Healthcare providers typically only prescribe antibiotics for sinus infections that don’t clear up on their own.
This article looks at what types of sinus infections can be treated with antibiotics. It also discusses over-the-counter treatments and home remedies.
How To Take Oral Antibiotics
Its important to always take your antibiotics as prescribed. It may be tempting to combine the doses, but they will not be as effective and could lead to adverse side effects, such as stomach upset.
Even if you begin to feel better, you should continue to take the antibiotics until you finish your medication to prevent the infection from returning. You should avoid alcohol while taking antibiotics.
While antibiotics are good for clearing a bacterial infection, they can also rid the body of helpful “good” bacteria at the same time. Because of this, you may want to consider taking a probiotic supplement while you are on antibiotics.
Probiotics are living organisms that can help to prevent the imbalance of bacteria within your gut that often comes from taking antibiotics. Studies have shown that taking probiotics while taking antibiotics can lower the chances of side effects from a bacterial imbalance, such as gastrointestinal upset and diarrhea.
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What Causes An Ear Infection
An ear infection usually is caused by bacteria and often begins after a child has a sore throat, cold, or other upper respiratory infection. If the upper respiratory infection is bacterial, these same bacteria may spread to the middle ear if the upper respiratory infection is caused by a virus, such as a cold, bacteria may be drawn to the microbe-friendly environment and move into the middle ear as a secondary infection. Because of the infection, fluid builds up behind the eardrum.
Can A Swimmers Ear Infection Be A Chronic Infection
Swimmers ear usually isnt serious if treated promptly, but complications can occur. Temporary hearing loss. You might have muffled hearing that usually gets better after the infection clears. Long-term infection . An outer ear infection is usually considered chronic if signs and symptoms persist for more than three months.
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When To Seek Medical Care
See a doctor if you have:
- Severe symptoms, such as severe headache or facial pain.
- Symptoms that get worse after initially improving.
- Symptoms lasting more than 10 days without improvement.
- Fever longer than 3-4 days.
You should also seek medical care if you have had multiple sinus infections in the past year.
This list is not all-inclusive. Please see a doctor for any symptom that is severe or concerning.
Other conditions can cause symptoms similar to a sinus infection, including:
- Seasonal allergies
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.
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What Causes Ear Infections
The ear is organized into three structures, the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear contains the outer structure, the auditory canal and the tympanic membrane .
The inner ear is an air-filled space that contains three small bones responsible for transferring vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The inner ear is within the temporal bone and contains membranes and a solution which is responsible for sound transmission.
There are three types of ear infections:
- Acute otitis media: an infection of the middle ear
- Otitis media with effusion: an infection of the middle ear when fluid builds up causing an infection
- Swimmers ear: infection of the outer ear canal
Bacteria or viruses cause ear infections. The most common bacteria for ear infections include streptococcus pneumoniae and haemophilus influenzae. Viruses that cause the common cold can cause ear infections.
How Is Chronic Middle Ear Infection Or Inflammation Treated
- Initially, antibiotics may resolve the ear infection.
- If a tympanic membrane perforation also is present, topical antibiotic drops may be used.
- If eardrum or ossicle scarring has occurred, that will not be reversed with antibiotics alone.
- Surgery often is indicated to repair the tympanic membrane and remove the infected tissue and scar from the middle ear and the mastoid bone.
- Long-term prophylactic antibiotics are not recommended.
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What Are The Possible Complications From An Ear Infection
It is common for some fluid to remain behind the eardrum after the infection clears. This may cause dulled hearing for a while. This usually clears within a week or so and hearing then returns to normal. Sometimes the mucus does not clear properly and âglue earâ may develop. Hearing may then remain dulled. Repeated ear infections can lead to glue ear. See a doctor if dulled hearing persists after an ear infection has gone, or if you suspect your child is having difficulty hearing.
If the eardrum bursts then it usually heals over within a few weeks once the infection clears. In some cases the perforation remains long-term and may need treatment to fix it.
If a child is normally healthy then the risk of other serious complications developing from an ear infection is very small. Rarely, a serious infection of the bone behind the ear develops from an ear infection. This is called mastoiditis. Very rarely, the infection spreads deeper into the inner ear, brain or other nearby tissues. This can cause various symptoms that can affect the brain and nearby nerves, including abscess and meningitis. You should always consult a doctor if a child with earache:
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Home Remedies For Acute Sinusitis
First, note that we recommend these natural remedies for acute sinusitis, which is generally a result of allergies or a cold. Chronic sinus infections can linger for months. Or they can continue to recur over a long period of time. So if your symptoms are more severe and persistent, we always recommend seeing a doctor.
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Oral Antibiotics Help Treat Swimmers Ear When:
- Infection spreads beyond the ear.
- The person has other conditions, such as diabetes, that increase the risk of complications.
This report is for you to use when talking with your healthcare provider. It is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment. Use of this report is at your own risk.
How Do Ear Infection Antibiotics Work
Ear infections are no fun for anyone.
Since most ear infections are caused by bacteria, its typically best to treat individual cases with antibiotics.
But antibiotic treatment isnt appropriate for every ear infection. There are a variety of factors to consider, including:
Recurring ear infections may also require a different approach.
If youre considering ear infection antibiotics for yourself or a loved one, learn more about how these medications work and how they can be both helpful and possibly harmful.
Ear infections are most prevalent in young children. Theyre often the byproducts of upper respiratory infections.
You or your child might experience other symptoms before the ear infection, including:
If an upper respiratory infection is caused by bacteria, then its possible to have an ear infection at the same time.
An ear infection occurs when bacteria gets trapped in your middle ear. Bacteria known as Hemophilus influenza and Streptococcus pneumoniae are the most common bacterial culprits.
But an ear infection may still occur if you have a viral respiratory illness. As you recover, its possible for bacteria to travel to your middle ear and become trapped, leading to a secondary infection in your ears.
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Physical And Structural Injuries In The Face And Ears
Serious complications or permanent physical injuries from ear infections are very uncommon, but may include:
- Structural damage. Certain children with severe or recurrent otitis media may be at risk for structural damage in the ear, including erosion of the ear canal.
- Cholesteatomas. Inflammatory tissues in the ear called cholesteatomas are an uncommon complication of chronic or severe ear infections.
- Calcifications. In rare cases, even after a mild infection, some children develop calcification and hardening in the middle and, occasionally, in the inner ear. This may be due to immune abnormalities.
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Who Should Take Oral Antibiotics For Ear Infections
- Children without ear tubes should take oral antibiotics for middle-ear infections, especially when they have severe ear pain or high fever.
- Children with ear tubes should take oral antibiotics if:
- They are very ill.
- They have another reason to be on an antibiotic.
- The infection doesnt go away with eardrops.
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So We Should Not Insert Cotton Swabs Into Our Ears To Try To Clean Them Or Remove Earwax Right
Dr. Wang: Correct. Use of Q-Tips can cause not only outer ear infections, but also trauma of the ear canal or eardrum, which can affect hearing and cause other types of infection and ear pain. Also, part of the swab can break off, leaving a foreign body in your ear that needs to be removed. It’s a common reason for ER visits, actually. If you feel you have a buildup of ear wax, I recommend applying a tissue or soft thin cloth to your finger and wiping gently around the entrance to the ear. There are also over-the-counter ear wax removal kits from Debrox® that are safe to use, when used as directed.
What Is An Ear Infection
There are different types of ear infections. Middle ear infection is an infection in the middle ear.
Another condition that affects the middle ear is called otitis media with effusion. This condition occurs when fluid builds up in the middle ear without causing an infection. Otitis media with effusion does not cause fever, ear pain, or pus build-up in the middle ear.
Swimmers ear is an infection in the outer ear canal. Swimmers Ear is different from a middle ear infection. For more information, visit Swimmers Ear .
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When To See A Medical Provider
If you notice persistent ear infection symptoms that dont resolve on their own, call a healthcare professional.
This is particularly important for adults, as a middle ear infection can be a sign of a more serious problem in this age group compared to children.
And if you experience chronic ear infections, talk to your primary care provider, an otolaryngologist , or an otologist to discuss treatment options.
When Does Antibiotic Resistance Occur
Antibiotic resistance occurs in a persons own body and within the community when certain drugs no longer work for a specific type of germ. This can occur when bacteria change in response to exposure to antibiotics so that the antibiotics no longer work efficiently against the bacteria.
Therefore, allergists and other specialists recommend limiting the use of antibiotics unless:
- Symptoms last over seven to 10 days
- Specific symptoms are present
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Which Antibiotic Is Best For An Ear Infection
Two classes of antibiotics are commonly used to treat an ear infection.
Aminoglycosides have been the main treatment for bacterial ear infections for decades. Two aminoglycosides used in ototopical preparations are:
Though both of the above are commonly used in the United States, only neomycin has FDA approval. Neomycin is effective for gram-positive bacteria but its effectiveness against gram-negative bacteria has declined over years, especially against Pseudomonas, the most common bacteria in ear infections.
Tobramycin is effective for Pseudomonas and other gram-negative bacteria.
Quinolones are the most recently introduced ototopical antibiotics. Most quinolone antibiotics in use are fluoroquinolones, which also contain an atom of fluorine. Fluoroquinolones are considered the best available treatment now for ear infections for two reasons:
- Broad spectrum of activity against both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria
- Lack of ototoxicity
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So What Causes Middle Ear Infections As Adults
Dr. Wang: In adults, they are usually associated with inflammation in the nasal cavity or the throat, such as a sinus infection, strep throat, cold or flu or if the patient has acid reflux, bad seasonal allergies, is a smoker or is exposed to second-hand smoke. The nasopharyngeal inflammation leads to Eustachian tube dysfunction, which then leads to fluid developing in the middle ear that then becomes infected. Sometimes patients who had middle ear infections a lot as kids continue to get them frequently as adults. Something about the anatomy or physiology of their tubes was never really resolved.