Ear infections are common in children but they also occur in adults. Many ear infections resolve on their own without antibiotics. But whether your ear infection requires antibiotics, you’re still likely to experience discomfort while waiting for the infection to heal.
Ear infections, also known as acute otitis media, can cause pressure and pain in your middle ear, which you may even feel in your cheek. But you can manage a lot of this pain on your own at home.
What causes an ear infection
Ear infections are common and are often caused by bacteria or a virus. The infection of the eustachian tubes in the middle ear causes pain and swelling in the ear, nasal passages, and throat. Ear infections can even cause temporary hearing loss.
How to treat an ear infection
Many ear infections go away on their own within a week or two, but you may experience pain and discomfort while you wait for the infection to resolve. There are some things that you can do to ease the discomfort of an ear infection, including:
Apply heat to your ear and the side of your face using a heating pad or a sock filled with rice that you warm up in the microwave. Hold it to your ear for 15-20 minutes three or four times a day. You may also find it helpful to alternate the use of hot and cold compresses.
You may find relief from a middle ear infection by putting medicated eardrops in your ear. Allow the drops to remain in your ear canal, rather than using a cotton swab to try to get them out.
Use over-the-counter pain relievers
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, can help to provide relief from the pain of an ear infection. Follow the dosing directions on the package and do not exceed the recommended amount.
Do not use aspirin for pain relief for children and teenagers, because aspirin has been associated with a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome.
How to prevent ear infections
If you are prone to getting recurring ear infections, you may be able to prevent them. If you have allergies, use effective allergy treatments to prevent ear infections from developing. Wash your hands regularly, especially during cold and flu season.
Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke as much as possible. Smoking and secondhand smoke both contribute to the incidence of ear infections. In addition, keep up with your vaccinations, including the flu vaccine.
When to call the doctor
There’s nothing wrong with waiting out an ear infection for a few days with supportive home treatment. But sometimes an ear infection clearly needs antibiotics or further treatment. You may need further medical treatment if you have a fever above 102.2 or if your symptoms seem to be getting worse.
If you have an ear infection and need answers, we’re always available to help. Contact us at either our Schererville or Chicago, Illinois, office.