Ear Infection treatments and drugs are based on the severity of the infection. Treatment also depends on age, health, and medical history.
Some infections will heal without the use of antibiotics. All it takes is treating the pain and allowing the body to heal itself.
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Make sure it’s an ear infection
An ear infection occurs when a bacterial or viral infection affects the middle ear (the sections of your ear just behind the eardrum). Ear infections can be painful because of inflammation and fluid buildup in the middle ear and can be chronic or acute. It can occur in the middle ear, inner ear, or outer ear, and can take on a few different variations depending on the specific type of infection.
Some forms are referred to as a swimmer’s ear, otitis media, or labyrinthitis, and the most common symptoms are pain in the ear and fever, sore throat, or fussiness in children, and they are painful but short in duration.
Chronic ear infections
Chronic ear infections either don’t clear up or recur many times and they can cause permanent damage to the middle and inner ear.
The only way to know if you have an inner ear infection or another ear problem is to see a doctor. If you experience symptoms of ear infection such as ear pain, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, spinning sensation, fullness in the ear, ringing in the ear, problems with balance or walking, or hearing loss, see a doctor.
Inner ear infection symptoms such as dizziness and loss of balance can resemble other medical problems, so a doctor will rule out conditions that may cause the symptoms such as head injury, heart disease, stroke, side effects of medications, anxiety, and neurological disorders.
Acute ear infections
The diagnosis of “ear infection” is generally shorthand for acute otitis media. Your doctor likely makes this diagnosis if he or she sees signs of fluid in the middle ear, if there are signs or symptoms of an infection, and if symptoms started relatively suddenly.
Making a firm diagnosis of otitis media is not easy. The eardrum is not easy to see, especially in younger children, and the signs of an infection are not always clear.
Otitis media usually starts with a cold or a sore throat caused by bacteria or a virus, then the infection spreads through the back of the throat to the middle ear, to which it is connected by the eustachian tube.
The infection in the middle ear causes swelling and fluid build-up, which puts pressure on the eardrum.
How is an ear infection diagnosed?
Ear infections are common and can often be caused by many different factors.
A viral infection is the most common cause of an inner ear infection whereas outer ear infections are usually caused by bacteria. Middle ear infections can be a result of bacterial infections, a virus, or other illnesses like a cold, flu, or allergies.
Ear infections are diagnosed by performing a physical examination. A primary healthcare professional, family physician, or ear, nose, and throat doctor (ENT) may inspect the ears for infection using a tool such as an otoscope, which blows a puff of air into the ear. If the eardrum doesn’t move, the patient could have fluid buildup.
Depending on the type of ear infection, the doctor may also check for symptoms of ear infection such as a fever or drainage of the ear. The healthcare professional may also ask questions about certain risk factors pertaining to ear infections, which might include:
- Age: Infants who drink from a bottle may have more ear infections than breastfed babies, because children are more susceptible to ear infections, as their immune systems develop. Children in daycare or school-aged kids are more likely to contract illnesses from other children, which could lead to ear infections.
- Air quality: Smoking or even second-hand smoke and other pollutants can increase the risk of infection.
- Allergies: Pollen can trigger allergies and put people at risk for an ear infection.
- Lower temperatures: Upper respiratory infections are more common in the fall and winter seasons, which can result in earaches and infections.
Symptoms of an ear infection
The symptoms of an ear infection usually start quickly and include:
- Pain inside the ear.
- High temperature (100.4° F or above).
- Lack of energy.
- Difficulty hearing.
- Discharge running out of the ear.
- Feeling of pressure or fullness inside the ear.
- Itching and irritation in and around the ear.
- Scaly skin in and around the area.
Ear Infection Treatment and Drugs
Most ear infections clear up without intervention, but some of the following methods are effective in relieving the symptoms:
- Apply a warm cloth to the affected ear.
- Use OTC (Over-the-counter) prescription ear drops to relieve pain.
- Take OTC (Over-the-counter) decongestants such as pseudoephedrine (Sudafed).
- If your symptoms get worse or don’t improve, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. They may prescribe antibiotics if your ear infection is chronic or doesn’t appear to be improving.
- Take over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication such as Ibuprofen (Advil) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol).
- It’s important to finish your entire course of antibiotics if they’re prescribed.
Surgery may be an option if your ear infection isn’t eliminated with the usual medical treatments or if you have many ear infections over a short period of time. Most often, tubes are placed in the ears to allow fluid to drain out.
In cases that involve enlarged adenoids, surgical removal of the adenoids may be necessary. Usually, the treatment consists of antibiotics for seven to ten days.
Best medicines for an ear infection
|Medicine||Class||Administration route||Dosage||Side effects|
|Children’s Tylenol (Children’s acetaminophen)||Analgesic||Oral||Solution form is based on the age and weight of the child||Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain|
|Advil or Motrin||NSAID||Oral||200-400 mg every 4-6 hours as needed (Ask a doctor before giving Ibuprofen to a child)||Nausea, dizziness, constipation|
|Amoxicillin||Penicillin antibiotic||Oral||Infants older than 2 months and children: 80 to 90 mg/kg/day twice daily. In adults, 500 mg tablet taken twice daily with/without food||Nausea, vomiting, headache|
|Biaxin (Clarithromycin)||Antibiotic||Oral||In infants, children, and adolescents: 15 mg/kg/day twice daily. In adults, 500 mg taken every 8-12 hours||Diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain|
|Vantin (Cefpodoxime)||Antibiotic||Oral||In children, usually 5 mg/kg/dose every 12 hours. In adults, 200 mg tablet every 12 hours||Nausea, vomiting, stomach pain|
|Zithromax (Azithromycin)||Antibiotic||Oral||Usually, it is not recommended due to increased resistance. 1 tablet taken once per day.||Nausea, headache, vomiting|
Dosage is determined by your doctor based on your medical condition, response to treatment, age, and weight. Other possible side effects exist. This is not a complete or definite list.
How can an ear infection be prevented?
The following practices may reduce the risk of ear infection:
- Washing hands often
- Avoiding overly crowded areas
- Forgoing pacifiers with infants and small children
- Breastfeeding infants
- Avoiding secondhand smoke
- Keeping immunizations up-to-date
Ear Infection in children
Ten percent of children do not respond to medication in the first 48 hours. In about 40 percent of cases, children are left with fluid in the middle ear even after the treatment is over, which can cause temporary hearing loss that lasts for a few weeks.
In most children, the fluid disappears or resorbs on its own. Kids with recurring bouts of acute otitis may have an ear tube placed into the ear during surgery to forbid fluid to drain from the middle ear.
If the problem is a bulging eardrum and the child is experiencing huge pain, a Myringotomy or a surgical incision of the eardrum must be performed to release the pus. The eardrum takes usually a week to heal.