When Should You Go to the Doctor for an Ear Infection?

when should you go to the doctor for an ear infection

I used to suffer from ear infections perhaps every two months as a kid, and if there’s one thing I don’t want to experience again, it’s an ear infection.

Whilst they are numerous remedies to help ease sore throats, colds, and coughs, ear infections are a different matter.

Five out of six children will have had at least one by their third birthday, but when should you do to the doctor for an ear infection?

What causes ear infections

Ear infections (medically known as otitis media) are the most common infections of the middle ear. They come with pain, a sensation that the ear is clogged up and can even affect our hearing.

They are usually caused by bacteria in the middle ear, but they can also be viral. More often this happens because of another illness that causes one of your Eustachian tubes to swell or become blocked.

This results in a build-up of fluid in the spaces of the middle ear. The pain is the result of this build-up of fluid and the accompanying inflammation increasing pressure on your eardrum. 

3 Types of Ear Infection

There are three types of common ear infection:

Acute otitis media (AOM)

This is the most common form of ear infection. The middle ear becomes infected and swells. Fluid gets trapped behind the eardrum. This can also be accompanied by a fever

Otitis media with effusion (OME)

This is when there is fluid present behind the eardrum, but there is no infection present. This doesn’t always present any symptoms other than muffled hearing unless it develops into an ear infection.

Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear)

After you go swimming, the water that remains in your ear canal provides a moist environment for bacteria to grow. This infection causes swelling in the outer ear canal.

It can also be caused by damaging the thin skin that lines the ear canal when inserting items such as cotton swabs into the ear.

You might notice redness and itching in your ear along with discomfort and muffled hearing.

When Should You Go to the Doctor for an Ear Infection

Most ear infections will clear up on their own in a few days and its just a question of waiting it out and managing the pain. 

But, its important to know when its time to go and get it checked out by your doctor, just in case the symptoms indicate something more serious.

You should contact your doctor immediately if:

  • The symptoms do not improve within 3 days
  • Body temperature rises above 100.4 degrees as an accompanying fever could indicate a more serious infection
  • Ear infections are being experienced regularly, as they can eventually lead to hearing loss
  • The symptoms of an ear infection are present in a child younger than 6 months
  • There is a discharge of fluid, pus or bloody fluid from the ear
  • The pain becomes severe
  • Any other symptoms present themselves including vomiting, headaches, a stiff neck, drowsiness and a loss of balance 

Better Safe Than Sorry

After examination, doctors will usually prescribe ear drops or antibiotics if the infection is bacterial to help fight off your ear infection.

If you’re concerned about an ear infection or any other medical issues don’t hesitate to contact us for further information.