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Ear Infection

Ear Infection Overview

Infection can affect the ear canal (otitis externa), the eardrum, or the middle ear (otitis media). Most ear injuries are caused by pressure changes during direct injury (such as a blow to the ear) or sport scuba diving, but, a persistently painful ear may signal an infection that requires treatment. Because an ear scope (otoscope) may not be available to examine the canal and inner ear in remote locations, starting therapy may be appropriate until a doctor can be reached.

Ear Infection Symptoms

Symptoms of ear infection include:

Symptoms may follow a respiratory infection such as the common cold.

Discharge from the ear canal is often caused by the infection known as swimmer's ear (otitis externa). A painful ear with decreased hearing is often the result of otitis media, an middle ear infection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/23/2014

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Ear Infection:

Ear Infections - Treatment

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Wilderness: Ear Infection - Symptoms

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How is ear infection treated?

Most ear infections go away on their own, although antibiotics are recommended for children under the age of 2 and for children at high risk for complications. You can treat your child at home with an over-the-counter pain reliever like acetaminophen (such as Tylenol), a warm washcloth or heating pad on the ear, and rest. Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20. Your doctor may give you ear drops that can help your child's pain.

Sometimes after an infection, a child cannot hear well for a while. Call your doctor if this lasts for 3 to 4 months. Children need to be able to hear in order to learn how to talk.

Your doctor can give your child antibiotics, but ear infections often get better without them. Talk about this with your doctor. Whether you use them will depend on how old your child is and how bad the infection is.


Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Otitis Media »

Otitis media (OM) is the second most common disease of childhood, after upper respiratory infection (URI).

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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