An ear infection (acute otitis) is most often a viral or bacterial infection that occurs when a cold, throat infection or allergies cause fluid to become trapped in the middle ear. Children are more likely to get ear infections than adults.
Ear Infection Symptoms (Adults):
- Earache (either a sharp, sudden pain or a dull, continuous pain)
- A sharp stabbing pain with immediate warm drainage from ear canal
- A feeling of fullness in the ear
- Muffled hearing
Ear Infection Symptoms (Children):
- Tugging at the ear
- Ear drainage
- Irritability, restlessness
- Diminished appetite
- Crying at night when lying down
Children get ear infections more often because they haven’t built up their immune systems to fight off common viruses and bacteria yet. Children can be exposed to more germs in daycare centers and school. Hand washing often with soap and water can reduce spreading germs and chances of catching the flu or cold. Air quality is important; avoid cigarette smoke and other air pollutants. Breastfed babies who nurse more than 12 months tend to have fewer ear infections. Bottle fed babies should feed in an upright, sitting position. Also it is important to keep immunizations up to date.
When to see a doctor:
- Child is younger than 3 months with a 100.4 F or more fever
- Any child with an above 104 F
- Fever lasting more than a day in toddler younger than 2, for kids older than 2 if fever more than 3 days
- Pus or blood leaking from child or adult’s ear
- If ibuprofen or acetaminophen are not helping with pain
- Severe pain that suddenly stops (could mean a ruptured eardrum)
- Adult symptoms don’t get better (or get worse) in 24 to 48 hours
Often, a virus causes an ear infection, in which case antibiotics won’t help. If based on the history, your doctor suspects that bacteria may have caused the infection; he/she will prescribe an antibiotic. Your doctor may suggestion home treatments such as cool or warm compress, pain relievers, chewing gum, and sleeping upright.