Ear infections are one of the most common childhood illnesses, with about 80% of children experiencing at least one by the age of three. Adults can also get ear infections, but these conditions happen less often. Even though the condition affects so many people, it is not something to ignore. In this guide, we take a look at when you should seek medical care for an ear infection, for both you and your child.
What is an Ear Infection?
Ear infections occur when bacteria or viruses get into the middle ear, the space behind the eardrum. This can happen when an upper respiratory infection causes the eustachian tubes to swell and close up. These tubes connect the middle ear to the back of the nose.This blocks the flow of air and mucus out of the middle ear, which can lead to an infection.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection
The most typical signs of an ear infection are:
- Ear pain
- Crying or irritability
- Trouble sleeping
- Pulling or tugging at the ears
- Reduced hearing
- Fluid draining from the ear
When to See a Doctor for an Ear Infection
For most people, ear infections will disappear by themselves within a week or two. However, there are some cases where it is important to see a doctor.
Children Under 6 Months Old
Ear infections are more common and severe in young children, so it is important to see a doctor if your baby or toddler has any symptoms of an ear infection.
Children with Severe Symptoms
If your child has a high fever (over 102 degrees Fahrenheit), severe ear pain, or other concerning symptoms, such as vomiting or difficulty breathing, see a doctor right away.
Adults with Ear Infections
Ear infections are less common in adults, but they can still occur. If you are an adult and you have an ear infection, visit your doctor if your symptoms are severe or do not improve after a few days.
What to Expect at the Doctor’s Office
If you take your child or yourself to the doctor for an ear infection, the doctor will likely:
- Ask about your symptoms and medical history
- Look in your ear with an otoscope
- Possibly order a hearing test
- Prescribe antibiotics, if necessary
Antibiotics for Ear Infections
Antibiotics are not always necessary for ear infections. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that doctors only prescribe antibiotics for ear infections in children who have severe symptoms or who are at risk of complications.
If your doctor does prescribe antibiotics, it is important to take them for the full course of treatment, even if the symptoms improve before the medication is finished. This will help to prevent the infection from coming back.
Other Treatments for Ear Infections
In addition to antibiotics, there are other treatments that can help relieve the symptoms of an ear infection, including:
- Pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Warm compresses or heating pads applied to the ear
- Ear drops that contain pain relievers or antibiotics
- Saline nasal sprays or drops, which can help clear mucus from the eustachian tubes
Preventing Ear Infections
There is no guaranteed method to steer clear of ear infections, but there are some things you can do to lower your (or your child’s) risk of getting them:
- Breastfeed your baby for at least six months
- Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke
- Keep the ears clean and dry
- If you or your child have allergies, treat them with medication
When to Follow Up After an Ear Infection
If your child has an ear infection, it is important to follow up with your doctor after a few days to make sure the infection is gone. Your doctor may also want to schedule a follow-up appointment for two to three months later to check for any hearing problems.
The Benefits of Seeking Medical Help for Ear Infections
There are several benefits to seeking medical help for an ear infection, including the following:
Early Diagnosis and Treatment
A doctor can diagnose an ear infection and prescribe the appropriate treatment, which can help relieve symptoms and prevent complications.
Prevention of Complications
Ear infections can sometimes lead to complications, such as:
- Hearing loss
- Mastoiditis (infection of the bone behind the ear)
- Meningitis (infection of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord)
Seeing a doctor can help to prevent these complications.
Peace of Mind
If you are concerned about symptoms, seeing a doctor can give you peace of mind knowing that you are getting medical attention.
Rule Out Other Causes of Ear Pain
Ear pain can be caused by other things besides an ear infection, such as a foreign object in the ear, a sinus infection, or a jaw problem. Seeing a doctor can help rule out these other causes and ensure that the correct treatment is prescribed.
Get Advice on Pain Relief and Home Care
A doctor can recommend pain relievers and other home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of an ear infection. They can also give you advice on how to properly take care ofthe ears and prevent future ear infections.
Ear Infection Treatment in Georgetown, TX
Ear infections are a common childhood illness, but the condition is usually not serious and will resolve on its own. However, it is important to see a doctor if you or your child have severe symptoms or if the infection does not improve after a few days. There are also things you can do to reduce your child’s risk of getting ear infections, such as breastfeeding, avoiding secondhand smoke, and keeping their ears clean and dry.
Want to receive the best care for ear infections? Visit Georgetown ENT today! You may call us at (512) 869-0604 or use our online appointment request form to book a visit with the best ENT doctor in Georgetown.