How to Receive Medical Assistance for an Ear Infection

How to Receive Medical Assistance for an Ear Infection

An ear infection is a serious issue that requires prompt care to ensure the infection does not worsen or cause loss of hearing. Here at our urgent care facility, we have a quality staff that is well equipped to handle even the most complex cases of ear infection.

While in some cases you or your child can recover from an ear infection without any medical treatment, the only way to know if the condition is serious is to have a medical provider diagnose the condition. With a correct diagnosis, you can reduce any chance of the infection getting worse or suffering from any complications from the infection.

Ideally, prevention is the best way to handle an ear infection, but oftentimes ear infections happen regardless of how careful you are. Subsequently, it is important to accept the possibility of an ear infection and be ready in the event it does occur.

If you or your child suffer from an ear infection, be sure to come in for a visit and let our staff give a full examination to ensure the most precise treatment. By receiving the proper diagnosis and treatment, you can ensure proper healing, and you or your child can get back to living life pain-free.

Facts from Healthy Grades

  • Ear infections are common in children and infrequent in adults.
  • The signs and symptoms to watch for differ by age.
  • Antibiotics are not always the best form of treatment for an ear infection. In rare cases, the first line of antibiotics does not cure the ear infection.
  • If left untreated, ear infections can lead to hearing loss.
  • Ear infections can be prevented to a certain degree.
  • Fever is an inconsistent symptom found in children with an ear infection.
  • A respiratory infection frequently causes an ear infection.
  • Ear infections are the second most commonly diagnosed illness in infants and toddlers. In fact, 50% of children before the age of three experience at least one ear infection, and 75% of children before the age of 10 will have at least one ear infection.

Questions to Ask Your Urgent Care Provider

  • What preventive measures can I take to ensure ear infections do not become chronic?
  • What treatment options are available for an ear infection?
  • Does pain medication help to relieve the pain caused by the ear infection?
  • Are there any home remedies that can relieve the pressure caused by the ear infection?
  • Are ear infections contagious? Can my child go to school with an ear infection?
  • What does it mean if there is discharge along with the ear infection?
  • When does an ear infection require medical assistance?
  • What do I do if there is a fever along with the ear infection?
  • How long does it take to recover from an ear infection?
  • What does it mean if I (or my child) experiences hearing loss because of the ear infection?
  • Can physical activity make an ear infection worse?
  • How do you diagnose an ear infection?

What Is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection, often referred to as otitis media, is a bacterial or viral infection that takes places in the middle ear, causing pain and irritation to the individual suffering from the infection. The primary cause of the pain is due to a buildup of fluids and inflammation in the middle ear. While an ear infection can happen in adults, it occurs much more commonly in children.

Since ear infections occur in the middle ear which cannot be visualized without special equipment and most commonly affect children, ear infections can often be hard to notice and diagnose without medical assistance. Since ear infections are a serious concern that creates a significant amount of discomfort and pain in children, it is highly encouraged to seek a medical diagnosis and treatment in the event your child suffers from severe ear pain that hinders their ability to function in everyday life.

The severity of an ear infection varies and is different for each individual who suffers from it. While a more serious, chronic ear infection is likely to lead to placement of ear tubes and severe pain, a mild ear infection will cause irritability and pain. However, to diagnose the severity of an ear infection, a trained medical provider must look into the ear using specialized equipment. This equipment will allow the medical provider to see the tympanic membrane and diagnose the condition.

Although the exact cause of an ear infection is not always easy to pinpoint, ear infections most commonly occur as a result of the cold or flu. Infection in the middle ear area is known as otitis media. Inflammation can occur in the outer ear which is known as swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is caused by inflammation in the outer ear due to water that sits in the ear canal, after swimming.

Diagnosis of an ear infection does require medical assistance, but it is easy to treat and does not take long for most to make a full recovery.


Symptoms of an Ear Infection

The onset of an ear infection typically happens fairly quickly, which means there are not many warning signs. With that said, there are symptoms to watch for in order to be able to seek medical assistance in a timely manner and prevent the infection from worsening.

As mentioned, ear infections most commonly occur in children. Subsequently, it is essential to separate the symptoms of an ear infection in children from that of which are found with adults with an ear infection as they are generally different.

Here are the most common ear infection symptoms to look for in your son or daughter:

  • Ear pain
  • Crying and extreme irritability
  • Constant irritation of the ear, leading to excessive tugging, rubbing and scratching of the ear
  • Difficulty hearing
  • Cough, runny nose
  • Difficulty sleeping

Along with these symptoms, it is important to watch for other common infection symptoms, such as a fever, excessive fatigue and loss of appetite. If your child shows any of the aforementioned systems, be sure to visit us and let us help your son or daughter on their path to a full recovery.

In adults, the symptoms may look slightly different. If you begin to exhibit any of the following symptoms, you may want to consider coming in for an official diagnosis: severe ear pain, headaches, reduced hearing, and ear drainage.

While it is far more uncommon for an adult to suffer from an ear infection, it is not unheard of for it to occur, especially for those who are active swimmers or are suffering from a cold or flu. In the event you feel as if you may have an ear infection, be sure to take the proper measures necessary to prevent the infection from worsening and causing you to significantly alter your daily life during the duration of the infection.

How an Ear Infection Is Diagnosed

Although it can be incredibly challenging to self-diagnose an ear infection, members of our staff here at our urgent care facility can often diagnose an ear infection easily by examining the symptoms that you are suffering from and taking a close look into your ear. In the event the diagnosis is not as easy to determine, there are several other resources that we can utilize to find out the exact cause of your ear pain.

In some instances, the diagnosis may require the use of a pneumatic otoscope, which allows us to look at the eardrum and passageway for any signs of an infection. The way it works is simple: a small puff of air will be released into your ear canal, and the movement involved by the eardrum should allow us to determine whether or not there is a buildup of fluid in the middle ear area.

If the root cause of the pain and discomfort can still not be determined through examination, there are various tests we can run in order to learn more, including acoustic reflectometry, tympanometry, and various hearing tests to determine if the condition is affecting your ability to hear clearly. After all testing and examination have been done, the official diagnosis should become very clear, and you can then begin proper treatment in order to rid yourself of the infection.

Lastly, it is important to note that there are several different types of diagnosis depending on the severity and exact location of the ear infection. The two main types of ear infections are acute otitis media and an otitis media with effusion. Both cause similar symptoms of ear pain but the main difference between the two, in essence, boils down to whether or not there is a clear sign of an infection (acute otitis media), or there is believed to be a build up of fluids without an infection (otitis media with effusion).


Treatment Options for an Ear Infection

Not every cause of ear pain requires antibiotics. That being said, hearing is an important part of life and it is important to have a trained medical profession diagnose the cause of the ear pain. If the cause is an infection, there are several treatment methods available, and an ear infection is relatively easy to overcome with proper treatment.

First and foremost, the main way to treat an ear infection is the same way you would treat most other bacterial infections, which is by taking antibiotics. In most cases, an ear infection in a child that also has a fever is usually treated with antibiotic medication, especially if they are under the age of two. With that said, antibiotics are commonly used for many patients, regardless of age or additional symptoms. When taking antibiotics, be sure to take the entire recommended dosage even if the infection is gone and all of the symptoms have passed.

If the infection becomes chronic, ear tubes may be inserted to drain the remaining fluid from the middle ear. While this solution is invasive, ear tubes are safe and very effective in treating ear infections, especially those that are not able to be treated with antibiotics.

In the meantime, while waiting for the treatment, procedure, or medication to take effect, it is essential to be able to manage the symptoms. The best way to do so is to constantly provide relief to the irritated ear by placing a warm, damp washcloth over the ear, which often alleviates some of the pain. Also, be sure to ask about taking pain relief medication as the proper dosage can help alleviate the pain and reduce some of the swelling.

Consult With Us

In the event you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, you may have an ear infection and might need medical assistance in order to properly treat the infection at its core. In order to ensure your ear infection does not become worse, be sure to consult with us and let us help you make a full, quick recovery.

At our urgent care facility, we have the staff and resources to deal with all of the various kinds of ear infections and can provide the care you need so you are not forced to miss more work than necessary, or your child is not forced to miss more school than what is needed.

Prevention of an ear infection is an important strategy. Prevention strategies include avoiding tobacco smoke, breastfeeding, avoiding high volume daycare settings, staying up-to-date on vaccines, and avoiding pacifiers and bottles. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can logically do to prevent you or your child from developing an ear infection, and it often happens suddenly without any warning signs. Subsequently, it can be helpful to have the proper plan in place to handle unexpected ear infections.

Ear infections can get worse if left untreated, so be safe and consult with us. By doing so, we can ensure you or your child understand the care they need and make a quick painless recovery so they can get to doing what they love in no time.

FAQ

Q: How common are ear infections in children? How common are they in adults?

A: Ear infections are much more common in children than they are in adults. Most children experience an ear infection even before they learn how to talk. Subsequently, it is essential to be able to recognize the symptoms of an ear infection in a child as they are not able to express the feeling of pain and irritation in their ear. In adults, ear infections are far less frequent. However, they can still occur in adults who obtain a viral or bacterial infection in the ear. If you believe you or your child have an ear infection, come in for a visit to our urgent care facility for proper, prompt treatment.

Q: My child’s ear infection is not responding well to the antibiotic treatment. What should we do now?

A: While antibiotics are able to treat certain bacterial infections, antibiotics do not work with ear infections that are caused by a viral infection or otitis media with effusion. In the event your doctor prescribed antibiotic treatment that has not worked after 48 hours, be sure to check back with them or come into our urgent care facility for a diagnosis and recommended treatment option. Additionally, be sure to continue taking the antibiotic treatment even if it is not working as discontinuing antibiotic treatment can cause it to not work as well if it is needed in the future.

Q: Are there other treatment options for an ear infection other than antibiotics?

A: Yes, there are various other treatment options for a middle ear infection other than antibiotics. In the event your ear infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics should work. Decongestants can dry up the fluid within the middle ear as well. For outer ear infections caused by other factors such as swimmer’s ear, ear drops can be prescribed. For otitis media with effusion, treat the underlying causes such as allergies for relief. Please contact your medical provider for accurate doses and recommendations prior to initiating treatment.

Q: What can be done to prevent future ear infections?

A: Since acute ear infections are most often caused by a bacterial or viral infection, there are preventive measures you can take to reduce the chance of you or your child developing an ear infection. Most importantly, be sure to practice proper hygiene, such as washing you and your child’s hands frequently throughout each day, keeping a clean, disinfected house and avoiding any exposure to smoke. Additionally, vaccines to prevent viruses such as the flu can help prevent otitis media caused by a viral infection. If you have a history of swimmer’s ear, be sure to keep your ears clean and dry to avoid developing swimmer’s ear.

Q: At what point does an ear infection require medical assistance?

A: A minor ear infection to an adult does not usually require medical assistance to overcome. However, any ear infection that involves both ears should be promptly treated by a medical professional to ensure the symptoms do not become even worse or the condition does not turn chronic. Also, any time a toddler or a young child under the age of six develops a middle ear infection, be sure to seek urgent care for the symptoms. Since hearing is important to the development of language skills and the symptoms in children are not always obvious, be extra cautious even in the ear pain could be caused by something else.

Q: What does it mean if I (or my child) experiences hearing loss because of the ear infection?

A: Ear infections are caused by fluid within the middle ear. The middle ear is where the hearing system is located. This area of the ear is usually occupied by air. As a result of the fluid, sound waves do not vibrate as well in fluid as compared to air. The hearing is decreased because of the fluid in the middle ear. As the infection and fluid resolves, the hearing should improve. Please contact our urgent care if you are experiencing any difficulty hearing after an ear infection.

Definitions

Acute ear infection

An infection to the air-filled space behind the eardrum, which is known as the middle ear. An acute ear infection usually has a fast onset and is caused by bacteria or a virus.

Bacteria

In terms of an ear infection, bacteria are a group of microorganisms that invade the body and reproduce rapidly, often causing illness in the form of an infection. Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics.

Chronic ear infection

An ear infection that does not improve after two weeks of treatment or continually returns despite preventive measures. Medical assistance is usually needed to treat a chronic ear infection.

Earwax

A substance found in the ear canal. Its natural purpose is to lubricate the ear and protect it from infections. However, too much buildup of earwax can cause more problems than it solves.

Hearing

The ability to perceive sounds by detecting sound waves. Hearing can become much more difficult during a middle ear infection as the ear canal can become filled with fluid and cannot transmit the sound waves.

Inflammation and fluid

Inflammation is the swelling of tissue which can lead to pain. It is possible for an ear infection to be caused by inflammation of the outer ear (swimmer’s ear) and fluid buildup within the middle ear (otitis media).

Middle ear infection

Another name for an ear infection. This infection is caused by fluid within the middle ear.

Pus

a substance produced particularly while the body has an infection. In terms of an ear infection, mucus can block the eustachian tube and cause discomfort in individuals who suffer from an ear infection.

Otitis media

Another term for an ear infection. Otitis media refers to an infection in the middle ear that is caused by a virus or bacteria. Otitis media with effusion refers to a fluid and pressure within the middle ear infection caused by allergies or a resolving ear infection/otitis media.

Tympanic membrane

A large part of the hearing system and the tympanic membrane forms the eardrum. During a middle ear infection, the tympanic membrane can swell and make it harder to hear.