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Ear Infections

Caused by a bacterium or virus in the middle ear, an ear infection typically results when another illness, such as a cold, flu, or allergy, causes congestion and/or swelling in the nasal passages, Eustachian tubes and throat. The Eustachian tubes, the small tubes than run from the ears directly to the throat, can be blocked due to:

  • Colds
  • Allergies
  • Sinus infections
  • Excess mucus
  • Infected or swollen adenoids (the tissue near the tonsils)
  • Tobacco smoking

Symptoms of ear infection

The symptoms of an ear infection can come on rapidly. However, they differ somewhat between children and adults.

For children, they commonly include:

  • Ear discomfort, particularly while lying down
  • An urge to tug or pull at the ear
  • Irritability and/or crying
  • Sleeping difficulty
  • Loss of balance
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Hearing difficulty
  • Fever greater than 100 F (38 C)
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear

Common symptoms in adults include:

  • Ear discomfort
  • Hearing loss
  • Fluid drainage from the ear

The differences between inner and middle ear infections

Ottis media, the proper name for a middle ear infection, is an infection behind the eardrum. It is most common in children with colds.

An inner ear infection is caused by a virus. Symptoms may include severe vertigo that lasts for weeks or months. Hearing loss and tinnitus are common with inner ear infections.

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Treatment for ear infections and ear infection discomfort

Mild ear infections can usually be treated at home. But if symptoms worsen or cause severe discomfort, you should visit an MD Now Urgent Care for medical attention.

A mild ear infection should respond well to the following types of treatment:

  • A warm cloth applied to the infected ear
  • Over-the-counter decongestants such as pseudoephedrine
  • Over-the-counter discomfort reducers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • Over-the-counter prescription ear drops for discomfort

If symptoms worsen or show no improvement, you’ll need to visit your MD Now Urgent Care. An oral or topical prescription medication may be necessary. Make sure you complete the entire course of antibiotics, if prescribed.

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Preventing ear infections

Preventing ear infections can be tricky since they are often caused by hereditary factors.

To reduce the risk of an ear infection in adults and children:

  • Breastfeed infants for the first year
  • If you smoke, stop
  • Avoid secondhand smoke
  • Practice proper hygiene such as washing hands regularly
  • Treat acute ear infections
  • Stay up to date on flu, pneumonia and meningitis vaccinations
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“The above is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. If you require medical advice or treatment, you should go to MD Now Urgent Care, your physician, or the nearest ER for evaluation.”

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