When Should I See a Doctor About an Ear Infection?

Ear infection


A middle ear infection is the most common childhood illness besides the common cold. While not as common, adults are still susceptible. Unlike childhood ear infections, which are often mild and pass quickly, adult ear infections are frequently signs of a more serious health problem.

Symptoms of an ear infection

If you are an adult with an ear infection, it’s important to pay close attention to your symptoms and seek urgent medical care. There are three main types of ear infections, here are the symptoms of each:

The inner ear

Inner ear trouble may be a sign of a more serious condition, like meningitis, and requires urgent medical attention. Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

The middle ear

Middle ear infections are caused by fluid trapped behind the eardrum. Symptoms include:

  • Swollen eardrum
  • Sense of fullness in the ear
  • Fluid drainage
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Earache
  • Fever

The outer ear

Outer ear infections are typically caused by bacteria or overexposure to water (e.g., swimming or bathing too frequently). Viral illnesses like the flu or shingles may also lead to an outer ear infection. Common symptoms include:

  • Itchy rash
  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Swelling

You may also have a higher risk of getting an ear infection if you smoke or are around a lot of secondhand smoke. Seasonal or year-round allergies and developing a cold or upper respiratory infection also increase your risk.

Sometimes ear infections resolve without medical intervention within a few days. However, if the pain isn’t getting better, you’re running a fever or having trouble hearing, you should also seek urgent medical attention.

If you have one or more of the following symptoms or your ear infection doesn’t get better within a few days, visit your local urgent care for prompt treatment. Our physicians and medical assistants are available daily from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. for walk-in treatment.