Wilderness: Ear Infection (cont.)
Ear Infection Treatment
- Rest: avoid further scuba dives, coughing, sneezing, bending, and attempts to equalize the ears.
- Pain may be relieved with 1 to 2 acetaminophen (Tylenol) every four hours and/or 1 to 2 ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) every 6 to 8 hours.
- Pseudoephedrine (the active ingredient in over-the-counter medications such as Sudafed) 30 mg tablets, one every six hours for 2 to 3 days, may ease ear pressure. (People with a history of high blood pressure should avoid this product.)
- For infections of the ear canal (otitis externa): neomycin (Ak-Spore HC, Cortisporin, Neotricin HC, Ocutricin-HC), polymyxin B, and hydrocortisone (Cortisporin, Otocort, Poly Otic), two drops in the ear canal four times per day for five days, may also be used.
- Flouroquinolone antibiotics specifically for the ear are also available (ofloxacin, and ciprofloxacin with dexamethasone) to treat otitis externa and otitis media with a perforation or in the presence of ear tubes.
- If pain occurs, discontinue treatment and seek medical attention.
- Oral antibiotics are usually recommended for discharge from the ear, nose, or mouth. If infection develops, continue antibiotics for at least five days after all signs of infection have cleared. Tell your doctor of any drug allergy prior to starting any antibiotic. The doctor will recommend the right antibiotic. Some can cause sensitivity to the sun, so use a sunscreen (at least SPF 15). Some patients may be sensitive to topical neomycin and have further irritation.
When to Seek Medical Care
- Seek medical treatment as soon as possible for an examination of the ear if an ear infection is suspected.
- Seek medical treatment immediately if you experience a sudden loss in hearing in one or both ears (usually occurring over a period of less than 24-48 hours).
- Elderly people and people with high blood pressure should use decongestants with caution.
- Consult a doctor about treatment with available medications for an ear infection.
Pictures of the Ear
Picture of the outer and inner structures of the ear
The anatomy of the ear. The "760" notes atmospheric pressure in the middle ear. The eustachian tube supplies air to the middle ear.
Medically reviewed by Peter O'Connor, MD; American Board of Otolaryngology with subspecialty in Sleep Medicine
"Acute otitis media in adults (suppurative and serous)"
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/15/2015
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