Access a doctor 24/7 from your smartphone, tablet or computer.
An ear infection can be a painful and frustrating condition, preventing you from sleeping and concentrating on work. While earaches are especially common in children, this condition can affect anyone from babies to adults. Earaches are most often caused by bacteria and viruses associated with colds, throat infections, sinusitis, or allergies that lead to ear pain, inflammation, and fluid build-up in the middle portion of the ear. Ear infections can also affect the outer ear canal, a condition commonly referred to as swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear occurs when moisture remains in the ear after swimming or water sports, creating an environment prone to bacterial infection.
Common symptoms of an ear infection include:
In babies and very young children, an ear infection can be harder to spot if they are unable to tell you that they are experiencing ear pain. Look for signs such as increased fussiness, inability to sleep, ear drainage, or repeated tugging at their ears.
Ear pain is usually an acute condition, which means it only last for a short period of time. With the proper treatment, most earache symptoms will clear up over the course of a few days or weeks and are not likely to develop into anything more serious. However, chronic, reoccurring infections are a more serious matter and can cause long-term damage to the tissues and bones of the ear or permanent hearing loss.
Take precautions against ear infections by avoiding contact without anyone who may have a virus. Wash your hands frequently avoid touching your ears, nose, mouth, and eyes. It’s also important to stay up to date on vaccinations for the flu and meningitis. When swimming or participating in water sports, be sure to allow water to completely drain from both ears.